The National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (Nascoh) is training 310 of its members as election observers for Zimbabwe’s next election as the organisation intensifies efforts to ensure they are active participants in the country’s electoral process.
Nascoh sent five election observers to the recent Zambian election who were among the contingent of international observers. The organisation’s executive director Farai Mukuta said they were embarking on a comprehensive approach which will make disabled people equal stakeholders in election matters.
“Disabled people in Zimbabwe constitute at least 10 % of the total population. Few of them are registered to vote, a situation we feel should be redressed. There are numerous irregularities which we feel should be ironed out before elections,” he said.
He added that the legislation governing elections should be repealed and replaced with new laws which promote equal participation.
“It’s difficult for visually impaired people to vote secretly since they are compelled to vote in front of all the polling agents, a situation which is equal to voting at a rally.
“The deaf and dumb are denied their right to access information which guides them to make informed decisions because election campaign material is not friendly to them.
“Polling booths are too high so that people using wheelchairs have to seek help from others.
“This will compromise their voting process hence it should be addressed. Furthermore, in rural areas they have to travel long distances to cast their votes which in many cases proves to be impossible,” he added.
Mukuta also said they were making efforts to force responsible bodies to have their views incorporated into the new electoral law.
Nascoh, founded in 1969, is an umbrella body of organisations involved in the care and rehabilitation of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe.