Saturday 15 October 2022


Individuals convicted of offences related to public violence, breach of trust and dishonesty at least a year before sitting of the nomination court would be ineligible to contest for public office under proposed amendments to the Electoral Act set to be tabled in Parliament soon, it has been learnt.

The planned amendments will also make a driver’s licence inadmissible as proof of identity for voting.

In addition, duly nominated candidates for National Assembly and local authority elections can now only withdraw their candidature 21 days before a poll.

Presently, time limits to the withdrawal of candidacy are only limited to presidential candidates.

This provision is designed to afford the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) sufficient time to make changes to ballots and advise the electorate.

Overall, there are four broad changes to the country’s electoral code that were approved by Cabinet a fortnight ago.

The new Bill essentially seeks to complete the alignment of the Electoral Act with the Constitution as amended last year, including making provisions for the introduction of the 30 percent female quota in all local authorities and the youth quota in the National Assembly.

Crucially, it also seeks to operationalise Section 129 (1)(i) of the Constitution, which bars politicians convicted of physical violence, breach of trust and dishonesty from running for public office.

The Bill’s memorandum seen by The Sunday Mail reads: “An offence of this nature is one for which a Member of Parliament is presently under Section 129 of the Constitution required to vacate his or her seat.

“For the sake of consistency, it is proposed that persons who would be disqualified from continuing as MPs for committing such an offence should not also be allowed to stand as candidates for election.

“Guided by the principle that offenders who would be disqualified from continuing to sit in Parliament should not be admitted into Parliament, this clause will require every candidate to make a solemn declaration in a nomination form or by means of an attached affidavit that he or she is not convicted of a disqualifying offence or has received a pardon for such offence.”

With less than a year before the next general elections, some politicians currently appearing before the courts on charges of public violence could face disqualification if convicted.

In its present form, the Electoral Act requires a prospective voter to present either a national ID card, valid passport or driver’s licence to a polling officer to cast their ballot.

However, the envisaged changes will exclude the driver’s licence.

“Some driver’s licences do not reflect citizenship on the face of them,” the memorandum reads.

“In terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, one has to be a citizen in order to qualify as a voter.

“Accordingly, only a valid passport or national identity will be accepted as proof of identity.”

According to Section 107 (1) of the Electoral Act, a presidential candidate can withdraw his or her candidature 21 days before polling.

The Act, however, is silent on time frames for the withdrawal of National Assembly and council election candidates.

“To afford sufficient time for ZEC to make changes to the design of the ballot and to advise the electorate of any changes to the candidature of that election, these clauses seek to amend Sections 49 and 126 of the Electoral Act so that they are aligned to Section 107 (1) of the principal Act for withdrawal of candidature to be done 21 days before polling.”

Amendments to the Constitution, passed into law last year, provide for the setting aside of 30 percent of seats in local authorities for women and the creation of 10 new proportional representation seats for youths in the National Assembly.

The Electoral Act is now being amended to include provisions to operationalise these changes as set out in the supreme law.

Reads the Bill: “For every electoral province, there shall be elected by indirect proportional representation one youth member; that is, a person aged from twenty-one to thirty-five years of age.

“For every local authority (whether that local authority is a rural district council, city, municipal council, town council or local board) there shall be elected by indirect proportional representation the number of women party list councillors equal to the integer or nearest integer ….”

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said changes to the Act were informed by the need to operationalise new electoral provisions introduced when Constitutional Amendment Number 2 was signed into law.

“Broadly, we are introducing four major changes to the Electoral Act that encompass disqualification of candidates, proof of identity, withdrawal of candidates and the introduction of the women and youth quotas in councils and the National Assembly, respectively,” he said.

“The first one has to do with removing the driver’s licence as an acceptable proof of identity for the purposes of voting. This is because these documents do not show status in terms of citizenship.

“In terms of the law, voting is only for Zimbabwean citizens, so we cannot have a non-citizen with a Zimbabwean driver’s licence voting in our elections.”

Minister Ziyambi said candidates will be disqualified from contesting in elections particularly for offences similar to those that force an MP to vacate his seat once convicted.

“It aligns the Act to Section 129 of the Constitution.”

Zimbabwe Election Support Network chairperson Mr Andrew Makoni said the proposal to codify the women and youth quotas is in keeping with recent amendments to the Constitution.

“Providing for a period within which one can withdraw her or his candidacy before an election is also positive as this will allow ZEC enough time to print ballots for the elections.

“We can only comment on the other provisions of the proposed Bill once it has been published,” he said. Sunday Mail


Post a Comment