Bill delay a free poll drawback

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Delays in the tabling of the Electoral Amendment Bill in Parliament could be a major setback for impending elections.

Deputy Justice minister Obert Gutu last week said the piece of legislation was imperative as it would set out clear procedure to be followed when conducting elections.

The prevailing conditions in Zimbabwe militate against the holding of a free and fair election that will pass the test of legitimacy, said Gutu.

For instance, the Electoral Amendment Act is yet to be piloted through Parliament in order to provide for amendments that will facilitate the holding of a free election.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Constitutional, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs recently held public hearings to gather views on what people wanted enshrined in the Electoral Amendment Act. The Bill, however, has not yet been brought before Parliament for scrutiny.

Gutu said without electoral reforms fostered through the Electoral Amendment Bill, especially those clauses dealing with polling and violence, it would be impossible to have free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

The aspect of polling station-based balloting has to be clarified vis–vis ward-based polling. All political players have to be granted equal and unfettered access to the public electronic and print media.

The ghost of political violence and intimidation has to be exorcised and without these basic conditions being met, we can only but dream of a free and fair election in Zimbabwe, he said.

Gutu said apart from the Electoral Amendment Bill, there were other Bills which needed panel-beating before elections.

We should also work on repealing the offending provisions of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).

Why should Zimbabwe still retain fascist laws on its statute books three decades after independence? Why should we still be afraid of our shadow or do we have skeletons in our cupboards? Gutu said.

He said Posa and Aippa had to be made user friendly to allow political parties to assemble freely and the media to report on electoral issues without fear.