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Parly summons journos over postal voting petition

Local News
Parliament of Zimbabwe

TWO Bulawayo-based journalists, Mandla Tshuma and Lulu Brenda Harris, have been invited to a meeting by Parliament following their petition seeking the amendment of the Electoral Act to include postal voting for journalists.

Postal voting is only accorded to people in the security services, at embassies abroad and other civil servants on electoral duty.

Tshuma of Magwegwe, and Harris of Queens Park in Bulawayo, filed their petition on April 5 last year, and Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda announced it in Parliament on July 20.

The petition was addressed to Mudenda and Members of Parliament.

Acting Clerk of Parliament Helen Dingani on January 19 said the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Portfolio Committee was considering their petition on the need to amend section 73 of the Electoral Act Chapter 2:13 to include journalists among persons who qualify for postal voting ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.

“To this end, the committee is kindly inviting you to a meeting on February 2 at 10am in the National Assembly, Ground Floor at Parliament Building. The purpose of the meeting is for you to further explain the issues raised in your petition,” Dingani wrote.

In their petition, the journalists stated: “We, the undersigned, being citizens of Zimbabwe, rely on section 149 (Right to Petition Parliament) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act, 2013 (as amended) (Constitution) to draw the attention of the House to the following.

“The Constitution mandates the Parliament of Zimbabwe to make laws, carry out executive oversight and discharge a representative role, as well as protect the Constitution and democratic governance in Zimbabwe. Section 67 (Political Rights) of the Constitution enshrines the right ‘to vote in all elections and referendums to which [the] Constitution or any mother law applies, and to do so in secret’ (Section 67(3) (a)).”

They said journalists play a vital role in any society as was seen at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, when government, on April 19, 2020, accorded the media an essential/critical service status after it published Statutory Instrument 93 of 2020.

The journalists said while most people were confined to their homes for the greater part of 2020, journalists, security services and medical personnel, among others, went about doing their national duties.

They, however, said the country’s laws only allow postal voting for members of the security services and other government employees (including their spouses), while turning a blind eye to media practitioners, who, during polls are deployed to cover elections outside their constituencies.

“We pray that this should not be allowed to continue under the new dispensation. Wherefore we pray that the Parliament of Zimbabwe exercises its constitutional mandate to amend section 73 of the Electoral Act to include journalists among persons who qualify for postal voting ahead of the 2023 harmonised polls.”

Tshuma confirmed yesterday that they would attend the meeting.

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