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Voter education exercise a right for all

POLITICAL parties and civil society organisations have the right to engage in voter education exercises as they are part of electoral processes, analysts have said.

BY OUR STAFF

This comes after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) recently said that it was in charge of voter education and other organisations needed to be accredited to undertake the process.

It said that political parties would only be restricted to campaigning.

A report in the public media a fortnight ago insinuated that some sections of government were contemplating limiting voter education to political parties, as ZEC were being partisan in discharging this particular duty.

National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) chairperson Effie Ncube said it was the responsibility of every Zimbabwean, from churches, civic society and political parties, to participate in processes leading to elections.
“We don’t have to exclude parties from these processes as they are actors. Issues however, do arise with regard to the kind of information to be disseminated to the public, which in an ideal democracy should be objective and non-partial,” said Ncube.
“Some parties can do that, others can’t. So ZEC must not select people, anybody should be allowed to do that.”
Principles of voter education include comprehensiveness, integrity, inclusiveness, accessibility, transparency, credibility and security, among others.

ZEC is mandated with supervising the compilation of the voters’ roll, its maintenance and voter registration, among other responsibilities.
In May this year, police charged a local non-governmental organisation, the Electoral Resource Centre, for allegedly conducting voter education without ZEC’s authorisation citing a breach of Section 40 (C) (1) (g) of the Electoral Act.

Political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya concurred with other analysts arguing that political parties could not be divorced from voter education exercises.

“It is the primary role of political parties to do so because they are involved in the whole electoral process,” said Ruhanya.

“They have to be involved in informing citizens on how to vote and where to vote. For instance, the primary elections that the MDC or Zanu PF may hold are all part of a process leading towards elections.

The only difference would be the partisan nature of the voter education process that political parties employ.”

Ruhanya said civil society also has to be involved in voter education in terms of how to vote and encouraging citizens to exercise their rights.

“All this is allowed under the Constitution, the Electoral Act and Sadc principles guiding the conduct of elections,” he said.

Concerted efforts to obtain a comment from ZEC chief executive officer, Lovemore Sekeramayi proved fruitless as the commission did not respond to written questions, which his office had requested.

PARTIES TO PARTICIPATE  IN VOTER EDUCATION

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) spokesperson, Thabani Nyoni said political parties had to participate in this process (voter education) because they inherently have an interest in the electoral process.

“From our understanding, it is proper because political parties are interested parties,” he said.

“Political parties can be part and parcel of the whole machinery of ensuring more active participation of people in such processes through voter registration.

“It is their conduct and activities that determine the ability of citizens to participate in elections.”

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