ZEC challenged to create a conducive electoral environment for PWDs

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Writes Marlvin Ngiza

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been encouraged to make the election environment conducive for people with disabilities by ensuring easy accessibility of polling stations and the availability of disaggregated data for full-fair participation of the group.

In an interview with Spiked Online Media, Disability Reform Coalition Chairperson Masimba Kuchera said that there was little inclusion of people with disabilities due to a number of issues which range from high nomination court fees, below the expected standard polling stations and inaccessibility of information by the group hence the need for the electoral body and political parties to both strategise on measures that do not leave people with disabilities in the electoral processes.

“Section 51 A of the Electoral Act mandates the ZEC to make polling stations accessible where people with physical impairments can have access but we have seen polling stations where people with disabilities cannot access. It may also be key to have clearly marked and labelled places for people with disabilities so that they get services at the polling stations easily. We expect ZEC to follow the Electoral Act, “said Kuchera

Speaking on information accessibility and participation for people with disabilities, Kuchera bemoaned an information gap that existed while calling for the electoral management body and political parties to package information in a way that is appropriate for the group.

He added that the nomination fees for the candidates who wished to contest were exorbitant and discriminatory to the group.

“People with disabilities have various communication needs. So the information is sometimes not reaching some sections because the information is not packaged in an accessible format. What is key is for the players to best find ways of packaging information in an accessible and simplified way to satisfy the information needs of people with disabilities. We call for ZEC to disaggregate data by disability through the inclusion of disability in all their data collection process.

“I think the nomination fees were inconsiderate of people with disabilities. Considering persons with disabilities have low access to resources but the nomination fees are uniform, they do not consider that we could have them want to participate. The high nomination fees discourage them from participating and also political parties are also discouraging people with disabilities from participating by not prioritizing people with disabilities as their candidates, ” he added.

Meanwhile, Disability Youth Advocacy Network In Zimbabwe Founder and President, Michael Masunda, said that they were not folding hands regarding issues affecting youths with disabilities. As a result, they have already begun educational campaigns and advocating sessions to claim participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in all processes including elections.

“From the word go, as an organization we are much concerned about the way this coming election is going to be. There was no inclusion of people with disabilities from the beginning. Looking at high nomination fees, there were no good communication channels.

“So as an organization, we have already begun processes to address our issues to the officials, so we are doing campaigns on social media, engaging stakeholders, and educating the group about their rights. We need full participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in governance issues,” said Masunda.

The nomination fees for candidates to contest in this year’s harmonized elections were pegged at US$20 000, US$1000, and US$200 for a presidential candidate, a member of parliament, and a councillor respectively.

The electorate is expected to cast their ballots on the 23rd of August 2023.