Walter Nyamukondiwa Kariba Bureau
PARLIAMENT is targeting to complete the electoral law reform process in the next two months before the lapse of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament to allow the country to lay the foundation for the 2023 harmonised elections.
This comes as Parliament has described a petition presented by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a sound document which complies with Section 149 of the Constitution, further reinforcing the participation of the public in the law reform process.
Addressing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and civic society, including ZESN here, Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda said the petition had come at an opportune time to strengthen the country’s democratic processes.
“Let us be mindful of some sense of urgency on this matter of trying to achieve free, fair, transparent and credible elections in 2023. Thus, the time to start the process of electoral reforms is now before the lapse of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.
“Within two months, we must produce a prototype electoral law that will satisfy our aspiration for free, fair, transparent and credible elections in 2023.”
Adv Mudenda hailed ZESN for the work it was doing in the electoral law reform process, saying the petition filed by ZESN on December 3, 2018 was an important pillar in democracy.
“This petition, therefore, comes at the most vital moment in that it creates thorough leverages to interrogate and take stock of our electoral laws, identify gaps and shortcomings in our electoral system that can be refined in order to promote and enhance democracy, transparency and an effective democratic electoral system,” Adv Mudenda.
“It is, therefore, appropriate and salutary that the petitioners (ZESN) are now desirous of seeing electoral law reforms which beckon Zimbabwe to embrace and implement its commitments under the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as well as the SADC Principles and Guidelines for Democratic Elections so that the electoral law creates clear voting related rights.”
While desirous of strengthening democracy, said Adv Mudenda, there was need for caution about what constitutes international best practices.
“We have to be really guarded because who are these people who define international best practices. I think here they talk of democracy in the mould of Western countries but elections do take place in Eastern countries also. Some under one-party state, some if they are lucky under two-party state and for some it’s a family affair.”
Adv Mudenda said the same Western countries that pose as paragons and advocates of democracy do immeasurable trade with some of the countries with the worst human rights records.
He said the template and benchmarks change when it comes to Africa, adding that democracy evolved in Western countries over 300 years in some cases, often with gory tales of murder and coups. Africa and Zimbabwe in particular, Adv Mudenda said, was being criticised for lagging behind in terms of implementing gender parity, but the movement started way back in England around 1919.
ZESN chairperson Mr Andrew Makoni said it was important for legislators to look into the issue of electoral reform now when they had sufficient time before the 2023 elections.
Mr Makoni welcomed Parliament’s decision to work on the electoral reform process before the lapse of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament as setting the right tone for free, fair, transparent and credible elections in 2023.