Zimbabwe is proposing a raft of sweeping changes to the electoral laws that are set to be introduced at the next general elections, which seek to tackle electoral violence, protect the voter’s roll and ban civic participation in voter education.
The new changes also seek to punish those who purport to announce election results before they are announced by an election officer.
Electoral reforms are one of the outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and are backed at regional level by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
The need for electoral reforms follows widespread criticism of the violent conduct of the 2008 presidential run-off which was internationally condemned.
President Mugabe, under pressure from the West and his southern African peers, has pledged wide-ranging electoral reforms before the next harmonised polls.
The sweeping electoral reforms were proposed by Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Positive proposals include the appointment of special police liaison officers and special investigation committees in provincial centres to expeditiously deal with cases of politically-motivated violence or intimidation in each province.
The special liaison officers would be senior police officers, to be appointed by Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri and would work closely with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and a multi-party liaison committee during the election period.
Authoritative sources in government yesterday told NewsDay the Judicial Service Commission would also be required to designate one or more magistrates in each province to try cases involving politically-motivated violence and intimidation.
The designated magistrates were expected to give priority to such cases. Those convicted of electoral violence could be prevented from being registered as voters for five years.
The proposals also seek to penalise anyone tampering with or commercially exploiting any voters’ roll provided to them by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
The proposed penalty for misuse of the voters’ roll would be imprisonment for up to five years, up from the current one year.
The other proposed reform entails that should there be a presidential re-run the election should be held not less than 21 days and not more than 63 days after the last