People living with disability demand full voting rights

Voting rights for people living with disability continue to be trampled on as there are no measures and facilities to ease the voting process, a situation which has forced this group to get assistance from aides.

By Phyllis Mbanje

Human rights defender, Jestina Mukoko from the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) told journalists at the weekend that people living with disability in Zimbabwe should not continue to get assistance to access the voting booth, but instead, measures should be put in place to ensure they exercise full voting rights.

Access to voting for this group has not been easy and many have had to resort to aides to help them carry out the process.

“They are born with impairment, but we give them disability. Why do we not have booths which are tailor-made for people with physical challenges?” she asked.

Although the biometric voter registration form has a disability category, stakeholders said more needed to be done through wider consultation with the affected people.

“They face a lot of violation and are not treated as equal members of the society. This is despite the fact that they occupy a significant proportion of the society,” Mukoko said.

Assistance during voting process has been criticised, but in previous elections, there were reports of people including teachers who asked for assistance when voting. This, according to opposition parties, was a deliberate attempt by the ruling Zanu PF party to secure more votes by intimidating people.

Speaking on the political environment, Mukoko, a victim of the 2008 violence, said the situation was very tense in some areas like Manicaland.

“You can cut it with a knife. People are very afraid of elections. The recent blast at White City Stadium and the murder of the two-year-old boy all add on to the euphoria,” she said.

This, she said, had been most prevalent in the rural areas where people have no access to information on how they can report cases of political violence.

Voter intimidation is perpetuated, particularly via the various social media platforms.

“Visits to some areas have shown that tension is high, people are afraid of elections. Yes, cases of violence may be less now in comparison with prevoius elections, but there are deep-seated currents,” she said.

Speaking on vote-buying, Mukoko said it was now difficult to draw the line between charity work and coercing people into voting a particular party.

“I witnessed a sad scenario where the elderly queued for hours and only received 250g packets of matemba fish,” she said.

The emergence of the infamous Green Bombers at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rally in Bindura on Saturday is testimony that Zanu PF has retained its culture of political intolerance.

Videos posted on various social media platforms show the crowd being chased by the Green Bombers who were wielding sticks.

This flies in the face of the recent peace pledges that various leaders of political parties signed.

“Even after the peace pledge, there are still reports of violence coming in,” Mukoko said.

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