Home » Governance » Electoral Bill – Mnangagwa Buckles Under Pressure

FAST-tracking the Electoral Amendment Bill in Parliament is meeting resistance from civil society groups and opposition political parties who say it is imperative for wide consultations to be made first before it is passed.

The Bill recently sailed through Senate amidst protest by MDC-T legislators who felt it was being railroaded without giving stakeholders a chance to discuss and present their input.

The piece of legislation which is pivotal in determining electoral outcomes is now in the National Assembly where it is at the second reading stage.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Emmerson Mnangagwa tried to urge MPs to pass it without delay.

But he later succumbed to pressure from MDC-T Southerton MP Gift Chimanikire who suggested that interested groups and the Jessie Majome chaired Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs be given a chance to gather views from members of the public and other stakeholders.

Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said Parliament should ensure the electoral laws addressed the challenges encountered in previous elections.

“The electoral law should be aligned so that it does not remain in contradiction with the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Chimhini.

“We should have respect of our three pillars of government, and the institution of Parliament is mandated to enact and review electoral laws.”

Human rights activist, Grace Chirenje said the Bill should guarantee human rights.

Tsitsi Mushonga of Harare said Parliament should be allowed to play its representative and legislative role when crafting the Bill. She said it was imperative that Parliamentarians be allowed to consult their constituents and debate the Bill extensively before it was passed.

“With the speed of passing the Bill, it means the National Assembly will not have adequate time to consult and debate on the Bill. The rushing of the Bill in the Senate is a reference point case,” said Mushonga.

Mnangagwa told the National Assembly before it adjourned for Easter holidays that the amendments that he had brought before Parliament on the Bill were preliminary. He said substantive amendments to align electoral laws with the new constitution were going to be done at a later stage.

But the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said it was wrong for Government to continuously amend the Electoral Act in piecemeal measures.

It said the Electoral Act has already been amended three times since 2007. The proposed amendments would become the fourth time the Act has been amended.

“Ideally, introducing a new Act would have been the best solution to ensure proper review of the electoral laws for compliance with the constitution. Nevertheless, as the review process is already underway the ZLHR noted that these amendments must not be fast-tracked without proper debate or input from the public,” ZLHR said in a statement.

It said it was part of the constitutional requirements (Sections 141 (a) and (b) that members of the public should be consulted for input whenever any Bill was being considered by Parliament.

“As one of the three arms of government, Parliament has a duty to place checks and balances on the law making function of the Executive, as in this case when the Bill has originated from there,” ZLHR said.

“ZLHR therefore urges the National Assembly to debate the provisions of this Bill and ensure that any law reform will not only fully align the Electoral Act with the constitution, but fulfils human rights obligations guided by principles at the sub-regional and international level to create a foundation for the conduct of democratic genuinely credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.”

Some of the changes to the Electoral law suggested by ZLHR include repealing section 18 of the Electoral Act and removal of the words “Registrar General of Voters” because he now has no role in voter registration.

“A section substituting the current section 18 of the Electoral Act on the role of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to register voters’, to maintain and keep the voters roll and register voters must be inserted,” ZLHR said.

Other suggestions include insertion of a new provision to allow for availability of maps for delimited boundaries for inspection at Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices, and clarity on the right of political parties and candidates to have fair and equal access to private and print media.

“There is need to insert a provision obliging ZEC to ensure adequate voter education that is accessible to everyone around voting methods to all citizens ahead of elections. ZEC must also provide voter education in all the languages recognised in the constitution, including sign language,” ZLHR said.

On accreditation of observers the ZLHR suggested the accreditation committee must be composed of personnel from ZEC with no politicians in order for it to be independent, as envisaged in section 235 on independence of commissions.

“ZEC must issue voter registration slips or IDS to all voters with the picture of the voter. This will not be subject to direction or control of anyone,” the lawyers’ group said.

According to Mnangagwa, government was committed to holding free and fair elections, and consequently, he was going to allow for public hearings by Parliament.

“This Bill is only preliminary to another Bill which I will soon bring before Parliament to complete all the remaining matters in the Electoral Act that require alignment with the constitution. It embodies the points of agreement on the electoral reform that was reached between the participating political parties in the inclusive government,” Mnangagwa said.

The minister promised at Committee Stage of the Bill to remove all reference to “the Registrar General of Voters” and substitute them with “the Commission”.

He said there was urgency in passing the electoral amendments because the Presidential Powers regulations that were passed by President Robert Mugabe to effect changes on the Electoral Act before elections had since lapsed, rendering the current Electoral Act out of conformity with the constitution.

FAST-tracking the Electoral Amendment Bill in Parliament is meeting resistance from civil society groups and opposition political parties who say it is imperative for wide consultations to be made first before it is passed.

The Bill recently sailed through Senate amidst protest by MDC-T legislators who felt it was being railroaded without giving stakeholders a chance to discuss and present their input.

The piece of legislation which is pivotal in determining electoral outcomes is now in the National Assembly where it is at the second reading stage.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Emmerson Mnangagwa tried to urge MPs to pass it without delay.

But he later succumbed to pressure from MDC-T Southerton MP Gift Chimanikire who suggested that interested groups and the Jessie Majome chaired Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs be given a chance to gather views from members of the public and other stakeholders.

Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said Parliament should ensure the electoral laws addressed the challenges encountered in previous elections.

“The electoral law should be aligned so that it does not remain in contradiction with the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Chimhini.

“We should have respect of our three pillars of government, and the institution of Parliament is mandated to enact and review electoral laws.”

Human rights activist, Grace Chirenje said the Bill should guarantee human rights.

Tsitsi Mushonga of Harare said Parliament should be allowed to play its representative and legislative role when crafting the Bill. She said it was imperative that Parliamentarians be allowed to consult their constituents and debate the Bill extensively before it was passed.

“With the speed of passing the Bill, it means the National Assembly will not have adequate time to consult and debate on the Bill. The rushing of the Bill in the Senate is a reference point case,” said Mushonga.

Mnangagwa told the National Assembly before it adjourned for Easter holidays that the amendments that he had brought before Parliament on the Bill were preliminary. He said substantive amendments to align electoral laws with the new constitution were going to be done at a later stage.

But the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said it was wrong for Government to continuously amend the Electoral Act in piecemeal measures.

It said the Electoral Act has already been amended three times since 2007. The proposed amendments would become the fourth time the Act has been amended.

“Ideally, introducing a new Act would have been the best solution to ensure proper review of the electoral laws for compliance with the constitution. Nevertheless, as the review process is already underway the ZLHR noted that these amendments must not be fast-tracked without proper debate or input from the public,” ZLHR said in a statement.

It said it was part of the constitutional requirements (Sections 141 (a) and (b) that members of the public should be consulted for input whenever any Bill was being considered by Parliament.

“As one of the three arms of government, Parliament has a duty to place checks and balances on the law making function of the Executive, as in this case when the Bill has originated from there,” ZLHR said.

“ZLHR therefore urges the National Assembly to debate the provisions of this Bill and ensure that any law reform will not only fully align the Electoral Act with the constitution, but fulfils human rights obligations guided by principles at the sub-regional and international level to create a foundation for the conduct of democratic genuinely credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.”

Some of the changes to the Electoral law suggested by ZLHR include repealing section 18 of the Electoral Act and removal of the words “Registrar General of Voters” because he now has no role in voter registration.

“A section substituting the current section 18 of the Electoral Act on the role of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to register voters’, to maintain and keep the voters roll and register voters must be inserted,” ZLHR said.

Other suggestions include insertion of a new provision to allow for availability of maps for delimited boundaries for inspection at Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices, and clarity on the right of political parties and candidates to have fair and equal access to private and print media.

“There is need to insert a provision obliging ZEC to ensure adequate voter education that is accessible to everyone around voting methods to all citizens ahead of elections. ZEC must also provide voter education in all the languages recognised in the constitution, including sign language,” ZLHR said.

On accreditation of observers the ZLHR suggested the accreditation committee must be composed of personnel from ZEC with no politicians in order for it to be independent, as envisaged in section 235 on independence of commissions.

“ZEC must issue voter registration slips or IDS to all voters with the picture of the voter. This will not be subject to direction or control of anyone,” the lawyers’ group said.

According to Mnangagwa, government was committed to holding free and fair elections, and consequently, he was going to allow for public hearings by Parliament.

“This Bill is only preliminary to another Bill which I will soon bring before Parliament to complete all the remaining matters in the Electoral Act that require alignment with the constitution. It embodies the points of agreement on the electoral reform that was reached between the participating political parties in the inclusive government,” Mnangagwa said.

The minister promised at Committee Stage of the Bill to remove all reference to “the Registrar General of Voters” and substitute them with “the Commission”.

He said there was urgency in passing the electoral amendments because the Presidential Powers regulations that were passed by President Robert Mugabe to effect changes on the Electoral Act before elections had since lapsed, rendering the current Electoral Act out of conformity with the constitution.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard

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