THOUSANDS of uniformed forces and other civil servants who failed to cast their ballot in the just-ended two-day special voting window are no longer able to exercise their voting rights come July 31 because the law does not give them that alternative, Southern Eye has learnt.
Section 81B: 2 of the Electoral Act says: “A voter who has been authorised to cast a special vote shall not be entitled to vote in any other manner than by casting a special vote in terms of this part.”
The law flies in the face of assurances by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that people who failed to vote due to logistical challenges and chaos that rocked the process would be given a second chance to vote alongside ordinary citizens on July 31.
On Monday, ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau announced that the security officers who did not vote during the special vote between July 14 and 15 would be allowed to vote when the rest of the electorate votes, a position which legal experts dismissed as unlawful.
According to ZEC, about 70 000 police officers had applied to be considered for special voting, but an undisclosed number failed to cast their vote due to several factors including material shortages in the voting process.
“At law, it is not permissible for the people who were supposed to cast their votes through the special ballot to vote again on July 31. If they were allowed to do so, it would make room for manipulation of votes either by way of a voter voting twice or fidgeting with the figures because the system is not properly controlled,” said Harare-based legal expert Chris Mhike.
Tawanda Zhuwarara, a legal expert, with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said yesterday that ZEC was not authorised at law to make such a decision.
“I am not sure which section of the Zimbabwe Electoral Act ZEC is relying on. According to the Electoral Act, once a person has been approved for the special vote, he is automatically struck off the voters’ roll. In terms of the law, once an individual has been issued authorisation to cast a special vote, that person by operation of Section 81D, Sub-section 3 of the Electoral Act, has to have his name removed from the voters’ roll and his name will have a line drawn across it and it will be inscribed SV,” Zhuwarara said.
“Every individual authorised to vote under special vote has his name struck in the voters’ roll by having his name struck crossed with a line that goes through it. They will then inscribe SV on the name. That means that person cannot vote under the normal voting procedure and this is done to avoid double voting.”
Zhuwarara added that ZEC was bound by the Electoral Act and so could not act outside of the dictates of the Act.
“ZEC is a creature of statute and there is no law that says it can reverse the special voting authority. It cannot review its own decision because there is no law that authorises it to do so.
Therefore, ZEC cannot reverse its decision of giving the special vote. That situation has not changed. The person given the special vote has already proven that he will not be in the constituency where he normally resides on that day because he will be on duty elsewhere on that day,” he added.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and Constitution minister Eric Matinenga could not be reached for comment on the matter yesterday.
The MDC-T has already filed a court challenge demanding ZEC to nullify the votes alleging massive rigging.