Monday, May 21, 2018

Electoral Amendment Bill awaits ED assent

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THE Electoral Amendment Bill now awaits President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s assent after it sailed through both the National Assembly and Senate.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told Senators last week that the electoral amendments had expanded the scope of punishable offences during elections to include threatening statements made by alleged intimidators that peddle lies such as that they cantell how a person would have voted.
“This Bill also facilitates the according of election observer status on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission,” he said.
“This Bill will require the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure that the number of ballot papers printed for any election does not exceed more than 10% the number of registered voters eligible to vote in the election.”
Ziyambi said the Bill would also remove the requirements for an electoral officer to witness how a visually-impaired person votes.
But, despite the amendments to the electoral law, legal think-tank, Veritas yesterday said there were still some provisions in the electoral law, that needed to be aligned with the Constitution.
“There are still some provisions in the Electoral Act that are not fully compliant with the Constitution, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission procedures need to be made fully transparent.
“Other acts which need to be aligned to the Constitution in order for the country to have free and fair and credible elections include the Public Order and Security Act, and section 31 of the Criminal Law Code,” Veritas said in a statement.
Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act criminalises statements deemed to be prejudicial to the State.
Other Acts, that are said to have the power to hinder free and fair elections include the Interception of Communications Act and the Censorship Act, which control civil liberties, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
“The main problems with these laws are that they have not been used impartially. The effects of non-alignment of laws before elections can only be offset if they are not used punitively against the opposition parties,” they said.
Veritas said there was need for the electoral law to curb any form of violence and intimidation, and interference or intimidation by the military or any other security services, as well as traditional chiefs that are involved in party politics.