MDC-T to fight Chinamasa over Diaspora vote

The MDC-T has said they are prepared to take Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa head-on if he tries to push through the Electoral Bill that precludes the Diaspora vote.

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Chinamasa has been quoted as saying : “With respect to people living in the diaspora, let me say this right from the outset, there are other 101 reasons why we are not ready for diaspora voting and I will just enumerate the few. The capacity to have polling stations in every country where Zimbabweans are is just beyond the capacity of this country.

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He added: “The other consideration and it is very important, given where we are geo-politically, where we are, we have sanctions imposed against one of the three political parties in the inclusive government.”

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Chinamasa tabled the Electoral Amendment Bill for its first reading in Parliament on Wednesday, and the debate continued into Thursday.

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MDC-T legislators said Chinamasa should not try and impose his own laws on the people of Zimbabwe.

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‘This is why we have Parliament to ensure that we debate such issues. As it is we are going to tackle the issue of the Disapora vote but the honest truth is the Bill is unlikely to sail through in this format,’ an MDC-T MP said.

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At the time of writing debate was still going on in parliament and MDC-T legislators were strongly objecting to the section that said people who have poor vision or are blind, have to vote in the presence of a presiding officer, even though they can have a person of their own choice to assist them.

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The MP’s argued that while this enabled these electors to participate in the poll, it meant that their votes were neither secret nor independent.

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Fireworks erupted when Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa tried to push through the Bill with the controversial clause on blind voters not settled by the MP’s.

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‘A presiding officer from our experience can be anybody from the CIO working under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. It can be anybody from ZANU PF working under the same body, so we are saying anyone of choice is good enough.

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‘Experience tells us a blind voter is usually accompanied to the polling station by a relative. If the blind voter asks the relative to cast their vote for ZANU PF or MDC, without any intrusion from a presiding officer fair enough,’ an MDC MP said.

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The voting system in Zimbabwe has long being condemned for not guaranteeing that the blind can cast their votes freely and democratically, because it does not provide for Braille ballot papers. Even during campaign periods it has been noted that there is no literature in Braille.

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As a result of the absence of Braille ballot papers, the current electoral law stipulates that blind voters are assisted to vote by officers presiding over polling stations, in the presence of a police officer and agents of contesting political parties.

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The presiding officer asks the blind voter who he or she wants to vote for, and then marks the ballot for the preferred candidate. Some civil society organizations have described this practice as degrading and violating the concept of a secret ballot. – SW Radio.

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