The opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) has condemned the Electoral Amendment Bill that is currently before Parliament.
A statement released by the party reads:
ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL UNCONSTITUTIONAL, INADEQUATE & ANTI-REFORM
The proposed Electoral Amendment Bill that is currently before Parliament is unconstitutional, grossly inadequate and anti-reform.
It fails to align Zimbabwe’s Electoral Law to the Constitution, it does not take into account the recommendations of the 2018 Election Observer Missions on electoral reforms and it is not compliant with regional and international electoral treaties, guidelines and standards as will be shown in detail below.
A. No public consultation
The draft amendments have been put forward by ZANU PF to suit their ends with no public consultation whatsoever.
The Electoral Reform Bill is designed to create the impression that electoral reforms are being implemented when in fact, the proposed amendments take away more than they give and seek to exclude effective political participation in the forthcoming elections by the CCC.
Despite the constitutional obligation under S68 to consult the public when administrative action of this nature is undertaken, there is no record of public or stakeholder consultations in the lead-up to the draft amendments.
No meetings of political parties nor Civic Society Organizations were convened by either by ZEC or the Ministry of
Justice to consider recommendations from stakeholders. Written submissions were not solicited either.
An attempt has been made to belatedly stitch together electronic public hearings which are set to commence today.
We take issue with this methodology as it excludes the majority of the population which do not have access to the internet and may not be able to participate in the radio hearings due to technical challenges or load shedding.
The electronic hearings are also unconstitutional as they fail to facilitate comprehensive involvement and submissions from interested parties in legislative matters as required sections 68 and 141 of the Constitution.
B. Amendments designed to disqualify CCC candidates through targeted ‘criminal convictions’
This proposed amendment requires aspiring candidates to make solemn declarations that they have no conviction of at least 12 months prior to the election.
This amendment is calculated to ensure our members who are facing targeted prosecutions and are victims of clear weaponization of the law to silence the opposition do not stand as candidates.
This implied disqualification clause for Parliamentary candidates violates and is ultra vires the Constitution.
The Constitution sets out the only competent grounds for disqualification of Members of Parliament in sections 121, 125 and 129.
Crucially, there is no mention of disqualification due to prior conviction before tenure of office.
C. Driver’s licence as permissible proof of identity incompetent as it does not prove citizenship
Section 67 of the Constitution expressly provides that only Zimbabwean citizens are eligible to participate in electoral processes.
By implication, drivers’ licenses do not constitute proof of identity for electoral purposes as it is common cause that they do not prove citizenship. A non-Zimbabwean can hold a valid Zimbabwean driver’s licence.
This clause is therefore irrelevant and does not contribute materially to the enhancement of the citizens right to register to vote or vote.
D. Implementation of Constitutional Amendments 1 and 2 premature, challenge still before the courts
The proposed amendments on the 30% women local government quota and the youth quota were necessitated by Constitutional Amendments 1 and 2 which are currently being challenged before the courts by civic entity, Veritas citing procedural flaws.
Therefore, the proposed implementation of constitutional amendments that are currently sub judice is premature.
E. No legal framework for implementation of women and youth quotas
Further and in any event, the Electoral Amendment Bill does not create the required legal framework for the operationalization of the Constitution in respect of the women and youth quotas.
The constitutional amendment in Section 124 introduced new provisions which mandated parties to ensure that their lists are inclusive of young women below the ages of 35, women with disabilities and young women with disabilities.
There is no enforcement mechanism in the draft law to ensure implementation by political parties as would have been expected.
F. 30% Women’s quota for Local Government unconstitutional
The Electoral Amendment Bill provides for a 30% women’s quota in local authorities. This violates the 50% gender parity threshold set out in the Constitution. Sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution expressly provide for 50/50 equality regarding gender representation at all levels of Government.
The Electoral Amendment Bill should therefore put in place mechanisms that advance the achievement of the 50/50 gender parity within the existing number of wards instead of creating additional 587 council seats over and above the current 1958.
The inclusion of women representatives should be incorporated into existing council seats to ensure compliance with 50/50 gender equality.
G. The mandate of women elected to the quota is not defined
The 30% women’s quota for local government is not accompanied with a clarification of the role of the women listed who would have no allocated wards and thus no clear jurisdiction or defined role in the local government architecture.
There is a risk that they will be rendered redundant and ineffective in communities while remaining costly to the fiscus.
Gender parity concerns should be addressed through substantive reform and not window dressing as we see here.
There is also the risk that the women will be elbowed out of the directly elected ward seats and confined to the reserved quota seats which undermines effective women participation in the local authority political space.
The increase in the number of council seats will inevitably create administrative and financial challenges for local authorities that already face operational challenges and budgetary constraints.
In conclusion, there can be no doubt that the proposed amendments are superficial in that they do not address the essential election systems and process principles enshrined in Chapter 7 of the Constitution.
Consequently, these proposals fail the litmus test of applying safeguards for a free, fair and credible election.
We call for sincere, comprehensive reforms that will move the needle and ensure that we create a conducive electoral environment for electoral players and fully facilitate the ability of citizens to exercise their political rights and participation in electoral processes.