11 August 2017

Zimbabwe: No Voting for Prisoners

Photo: The Herald
Zimbabwean prisoners (file photo).

An application by three MDC-T jailed murderers to be allowed to vote from prison in harmonised elections next year is misplaced and the activists' remedy lies with Parliament, Government said yesterday.

Responding to a High Court application by the three MDC-T activists who are serving 20 years each for murder, Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabiza said electoral laws do not provide for prison voting and the applicants should ask Parliament to change the law.

Yvonne Musarurwa, Last Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere, were found guilty of killing police Inspector Petros Mutedza in Glen View, Harare, six years ago.

While in prison, the three through their lawyers Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners filed a declaratory order allowing all prisoners to be allowed to cast their vote in the harmonised election.

In her opposing affidavit, Mrs Mabiza said the Electoral Act was a law of general application that can lawfully limit the right to vote.

To that end, Mrs Mabiza said the only remedy for the trio was to engage Parliament. "What applicants seek is to have it declared that all prisoners be allowed to register and vote.

"I am advised by my legal practitioner, which advice I take, that one can only be compelled to do what he is permitted by law to do and that as long as the impugned act does not violate the Constitution, the only remedy available for the applicants is to go to Parliament and ask Parliament to change the law," said Mrs Mabiza.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Justice Rita Makarau supported the same notion. "The commission, as rightly noted by the applicants, operates strictly within the confines of the powers and functions that it is afforded in terms of the law. It cannot go beyond the bounds of what is prescribed in terms of the law.

". . . I hasten to state that the issue that has been brought before this court by the applicants may be one that requires a legislative solution and not a judicial one," reads part of Justice Makarau's affidavit.

Through their legal counsel, the three prisoners argued that since they have been in prison, ZEC had neither carried out any voter education, including voter registration to enable them to cast their votes during all past by-elections.

The trio said they now want ZEC to register them as voters and facilitate their participation in any future polls.

They said they want the election body to make necessary arrangement to ensure that prisoners are registered as voters on appropriate voters' rolls.

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