2023 Elections: PWDs call for increased representation in decision-making positions

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Writes Marlvin Ngiza

People with disabilities (PWDs) have expressed concern and dissatisfaction with the voting criteria for senators who represent the disability constituency in the country with the view that it was limiting and was not fair in expressing the actual desires and feelings of the community.

A Gweru-based Young Voices Disability Zimbabwe Director, Nyasha Mahwende, bemoans the lack of full inclusion and fair participation through this criteria. She said it only allows a few people to decide the leaders who would represent a large number of people with disabilities in the whole country.

“The issue of voting for senators to me is not fair and worrisome by looking at how it is done. Imagine 250 voting to elect the representation of over 1 million people. They will also just elect two senators, a male, and a female. I don’t think it’s enough to represent such a huge population. I thought it was better if we had to vote in constituencies for a fair outcome. The Electoral College is not enough for us as people with disabilities.”

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been applauded for pleasing, fair, and equal treatment of people with disabilities during the just-ended harmonised elections.

Several organisations that advocate for the disability constituency across the country expressed satisfaction with the reception and assistance that was given to the community at different polling stations. They said it allowed them to participate and exercise their constitutional right of voting for their leaders of choice.

The Disability Youth Advocacy Network in Zimbabwe Founder, Michael Masunda, saluted the improvement and further called for all elected members including those with disabilities to continue working towards the betterment of the usually sidelined community

“From all that we have observed during the elections at several voting centres, the disability community tried wholeheartedly to participate in casting their votes. Although it was challenging in some polling stations, the assistance by officials was generally fair. So with the outcome of the election, the disability constituency still needs peace and prosperity in the country. We want to continue working for the betterment of our country and more improvements in dealing with disabilities issues which are so many. This time, we will work tirelessly to bring the best life to our tables and for the country at large,” said Masunda.

The election of two senators who will represent people with disabilities was held on 26 August 2023 by the 119 associations and institutions that represent and assist people with disabilities.

The two elected senators to represent people with disabilities are Anna Shiri and Ishmael Zhou.

Approximate statistics which can be deduced from the WHO, World Bank, and UN standards estimate that 15 percent of Zimbabwe’s population of over 15 million people is disabled (about 2,250,000 people) and more than half of that proportion are women. It is estimated about 900,000–1.4 million people have some sort of disability in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).