By Buhle Tshavango
The Women coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) has condemned growing inconsistencies by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in regards to participation of women as voters and candidates in the upcoming 2018 elections.
WCoZ accused ZEC of undermining the rights of women by requesting for proof of residence for voter registration saying this placed women at the mercy of their spouses in order for them to exercise their right to participate in elections.
“ We find it incredulous that ZEC, a constitutional body tasked with conduct of elections, to ensure the full and equal participation of all citizens, would in good faith seek to utilize measures that undermine the rights of women…
“The proposal insinuates that husbands, therefore, men, have legal and electoral rights that are greater than those of women. What this requirement does is to place an undue burden on women and a barrier to equal and fair participation in electoral processes. Documents required for voter registration should not constitute a burden and a barrier for women”, said WCoZ
WCoZ further highlighted that the affidavit option would only work if ZEC ensures that each registration center has a commissioner of oaths to validate the affidavits that will be attested to by voters.
In order to ensure that elections are conducted in an enabling environment, in which voters and women, in particular, are not subject to violence in the exercise of rights as voters and candidates WCoZ called upon ZEC to fully uphold its duties of managing the elections.
“We are disturbed by ZEC’s continued relegation of its direct role in managing the electoral environment in particular as it pertains to violence and it impacts on women who are the majority of the voting population.
ZEC should not abdicate its direct responsibility to the other Chapter 12 Institutions. The primary responsibility for the conduct and management of elections, and all matters related to elections remains ZEC’s constitutional, legal and moral responsibility”, they added.
WCoZ also raised concern over the decision by ZEC that voter education commences three weeks prior voter registration saying this was inadequate in terms of providing all the necessary information.
In their recommendations, WCoZ urged ZEC to consider best practices in election management as derived from Rwanda whose constitution provides similar protections and mandates to address the issues of gender parity regarding women’s political candidature.