THE marathon public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in Matabeleland came to an end yesterday with an embarrassingly low attendance in Bulawayo.
The public hearings that were initially pencilled in for 2:30pm at Bulawayo’s Small City Hall, began with a paltry audience of less than 15 people.
In an interview before the meeting, the chairperson of the portfolio committee and Harare West MP Jessie Majome blamed poor mobilisation for the low attendance.
Civil society, which ironically pushed the government to conduct the public hearings, also snubbed the meeting with only Nkulumane-based Victory Siyanqoba Trust managing to mobilise youths from Nkulumane to participate in the discussions.
“We are happy that we have fulfilled our legislative duties in reaching out to people with the view of gathering their views. All seven successive parliaments have never conducted public hearing meetings so we have made history,” Majome quipped.
However, she admitted that the meetings had not been well-organised although she maintained that communication had been sent through the press and district administrators.
“I know communication and mobilisation had not been perfect, but nonetheless it was information disseminated through the press and district administrators,” she said.
She bemoaned lack of funding saying her committee had not been able to reach out to all provinces due to financial constraints.
“We are hamstrung by resources otherwise we envisaged reaching out to all provinces to fulfil our constitutional mandate,” Majome said.
Section 141 of the Constitution compels the legislative branch of government to ensure that interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament.
Majome, whose committee summed up its tour of Matabeleland yesterday, said the most prevalent issues brought out by people in Matabeleland revolved around issues of accessibility of the voters’ roll, easy voter registration, independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, minimal assistance of voters, Diaspora voting, and accessibility of polling stations and use of disabled-friendly voting material.
“These are some of the prevalent issues that emerged during our public outreach meetings in Matabeleland. We are going to take these views to the minister so that we come up with a people-driven Electoral Bill,” she said.