Vote buying, an obstacle to women’s political participation


THE Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe) with support from the European Union delegation to Zimbabwe and in partnership with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network hosted an online television discussion on Bustop TV’s Facebook page under the topic An assessment of the preparedness of women to participate in the general election: Reflections of the ongoing political party candidate selection.

The panel of discussants comprised four aspiring women leaders from different political parties who shared their views on the party candidate selection process in terms of gender balance and challenges faced by women voters and candidates during party candidate selection processes.

Some of the major and recurring challenges raised were:

  • During the candidate selection processes, voters were asked to use Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s *265# option to check their voter registration status online and connectivity issues hindered the process. Therefore, many of them would go back home without choosing their leaders and not return.
  • Some women were unable to participate in the voting process due to unpaid care and domestic work commitments as the processes took long in many areas.
  • Many female voters had to travel great distances to access polling stations.
  • Lack of access to information about polling station location and voting days, especially in rural areas, were attributed to less women participating in the voting process.

The panellists raised the issue of men bribing community members and gatekeepers with money or material goods to sway the votes. This gave rise to the strong recommendation to continue with voter education and conscientise communities on why it is important to vote and to not give in to momentary temptation in the form of bribes during the election season.

The low numbers of women candidates who finally made it as candidates were attributed to issues of little support from fellow women from their communities, lacking resources to fund their campaigns and being victims of mud-slinging to lower their chances of being elected or even competing.

At the end of the discussion, the following recommendations were made:

  • Civil society organisations should widen their scope in terms of training women in income generating projects and leadership to boost their confidence;
  • Political parties must ensure that venues for primary elections are accessible to women and that the process is completed within reasonable time to allow women to attend to other responsibilities;
  • Community engagement initiatives centred on garnering support for women and aspiring women leaders should be increased and taken to the rural areas;
  • Political parties must heavily penalise those accused and found guilty of vote-buying.- Walpe

Traders, growers must operate harmoniously

VENDORS Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) on June 9, held a Market Access Indaba that brought together council officials, councillors, informal traders and farmers operating in Harare and surrounding areas.

The principal market officer for Harare City Council Mr Banda said they are aware of the limited trading space for informal traders and that in response to this pressing challenge, informal traders could identify open spaces outside CBD and approach the licensing department. In Mabvuku, Hatcliff and Kuwadzana there are plans to upgrade farmers’ markets. The current charges for the different categories of markets are;

lFarmers markets pay a daily fee of US$10

lRetail and wholesale markets US$25 per month.

The chairperson of the informal sector committee, councillor Denford Ngadziore said the informal sector committee was introduced in 2017 to deal specifically with informal traders issues. The proposed informal sector policy which Viset played a role in drafting, is being completed and seeks to decentralise services such as licensing of markets and vendors to the district. Reclamation of dumpsites will be carried out to establish plant nurseries. He further revealed that every ward will have a farmers’ market.

Ngadziore revealed that they held a meeting with municipal police to deal with the issue of use of excessive force. As a result of this, officers are currently undergoing refresher courses on how to handle informal traders. He urged informal traders to operate from established markets and shun spaces controlled by space barons as council will not be receiving any revenue from these spaces yet it is required to provide services such as refuse collection. He exhorted informal traders to pay operating fees in US$ so as to hedge against inflation which will assist council in delivering timeous services.

Council will soon launch an SME fund that will ring fence all revenue from informal traders and this amount will be used for infrastructural development such as markets and ablution facilities. There will also be a fund that will be specifically for informal traders to borrow for restocking and expanding their businesses.

All informal traders operating in Harare  will be required to have vendor’s cards that will be issued by council. - Viset

Passing of ‘Patriot Bill’ a grave assault on human rights

ON June 7, 2023, Senate passed the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill 2022, commonly referred to as the “Patriot Bill”, which criminalises “wilfully injuring the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”.

The passing of the Patriot Bill by the Senate is deeply concerning and signals a disturbing crack down on Zimbabweans’ rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

The weaponisation of the law is a desperate and patent move to curtail the right to freedom of expression and to public participation in elections due in August this year.

The Bill’s deliberately vague and overly broad provisions on damaging Zimbabwe’s interest and sovereignty, including calling for economic sanctions, flies in the face of Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations.

All laws must be defined precisely, allowing people to know exactly which actions will make them criminally liable.

The Bill, if passed into law, could give authorities power to unduly restrict human rights, and worryingly, it will allow for imposition of the death penalty against those perceived as being critical of the government, including political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, opposition parties, and whistleblowers.

We are deeply concerned that the Bill adds to the existing plethora of offences punishable by death in Zimbabwe.

We call upon the President to reject this Bill.

The Government of Zimbabwe must urgently ensure that it abides by its obligations under international human rights law.

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, 2022, criminalises anyone caught “wilfully injuring the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe” and those who participate in meetings with the intention of promoting calls for economic sanctions against the country.

If passed into law the Bill would open the door to violations of the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Moreover, the penalties imposed by the Bill range from loss of citizenship, denial of the right to vote and the death penalty.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the State to kill the prisoner.

The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishment. - Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa

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