Journalists appeared before Parliamentary Committee over postal voting
Two Bulawayo-based journalists who petitions Parliament seeking the amendment of the Electoral Act to allow journalists to vote through postal voting received a favourable response from the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.
This came out when Mandla Tshuma and Lulu Brenda Harris appeared before the Makoni South legislator Misheck Mataranyika chaired Committee in Harare.
Tshuma and Harris had petitioned Parliament to amend Section73(1) of the Electoral Act, which states that a person who wishes to vote by post may apply to the Chief Elections Officer for a postal ballot paper provided that application for postal ballot papers by members of a disciplined force may be made to the chief elections officer only through their commanding officer.
“The purpose really of our appearance was to explain further our petition in which we are seeking parliaments to amend section 73 of the Electoral Act and include journalists among persons who qualify for postal voting in Zimbabwe. After our presentation, the committee said our petition is very reasonable, with some MPs saying there is no need to debate it. The Chairperson of the Committee Honorable Mataranyika actually said if we were in a court of law, he would simply say our prayer has been granted,” said Tshuma.
He said after seeking a few clarifications, legislators then asked them to amend their petition and demand the amendment of section 72 of the Electoral Act which qualifies some citizens for postal voting instead of section 73 which provides for postal voting procedures.
“The committee members said the amended version which we have since submitted will not be treated as a new petition. Honourable Mataranyika said the full committee will then sit down to deliberate our submissions adding if there is a need for public hearings on the petition they will do so,” said Tshuma.
He added, “On a positive note, the committee Chairperson said during the recently concluded public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill, citizens also said journalists should be allowed to vote by posts, the submission is captured in the Committee’s report which was presented to Parliament on the 2nd of February this year.”
Harris concurred it was also pleasing to note that the legal committee praised them for respectfully stating their case.
“I am tempted to say most if not all of the members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs were in agreement that our petition had a just cause and I can quote one of the MPs, Prince Dubeko Sibanda who said there was ‘some mischief’ that was done while crafting the original Section 72 that disqualifies other groups from doing postal voting.”
“One of the committee members said in a democratic society, there can be no reason to deny the request,” she said.