Parliament okays army deployment in polling centres
By Nkosana Dlamini
ZIMBABWE’S parliament has said that uniformed police officers and soldiers should be allowed to man polling stations during voting in the interest of law and order.
The controversial call is as per report by parliament’s committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs following a 2016 petition by the Election Resource Centre (ERC) for the cleaning of the country’s electoral environment.
The report was tabled in parliament this past week following countrywide public consultations with stakeholders on demands by the poll based group.
ERC had demanded that MPs should exercise their oversight role on the executive to ensure the smooth delivery of flawless polls.
Among their demands were the restoration the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s independence and a review of all legislation that negatively impacted on the political and electoral processes.
The poll based group also demanded the reining in on traditional chiefs who interfered with poll processes through partisan pronouncements.
The group also demanded the scrapping of repressive legislation that inhibited the free exercise of citizens’ rights and equal access to electronic and print media by all political players.
In its report, the committee urged Zec to resist any political arm-twisting by the country’s political players in the discharge of its duties.
The Fortune Chasi (pictured) chaired committee also downplayed calls for the scrapping of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), among some laws which narrowed democratic space.
“Further, the Committee notes that laws of general application for the maintenance of public order and security are necessary,” says the committee report.
“In this regard, the role of the ZRP is vital and the notice so required is a necessary tool to ensure law and order.
“The presence of the police and the army at polling centres is necessary for the preservation of law and order.”
“This is actually pursuant to Section 239 (j) of the Constitution that mandates ZEC to request them to ensure smooth, efficient and proper conduct of elections since these uniformed forces are in terms of the Constitution mandated to protect the public and ensure the sustenance of law and order especially during such peace sensitive periods.
However, parliament dismissed calls by the election watchdog for government to extend franchise to Zimbabweans based outside the country’s borders insisting the right to vote was not absolute.
MPs also urged traditional leaders to be nonpartisan as dictated by Section 282 of the Constitution.
However, they said there were no provisions that provided for any reprimand on errant traditional leaders who violate the country’s supreme law.