17 May 2018

Zimbabwe: Visually Impaired Potential Voters Drag ZEC to Court Demanding Braille Ballot Papers

Photo: The Herald
Biometric Voter Registration equipment.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has petitioned the High Court seeking an order to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to print ballot papers in a manner accessible to some visually impaired potential voters so that they can exercise their right to vote by secret ballot during the forthcoming 2018 general election.

Innocent Maja and Justice Mavedzenge of Maja and Associates filed an urgent court application in the High Court, in a case supported by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, on Friday 11 May 2018 seeking an order to oblige ZEC to print some ballot papers in Braille or to print the template ballot or to provide tactile voting devices so that some visually impaired potential voters can exercise their right to vote in secret during the 2018 general elections.

In the application filed on behalf of Harare lawyer Abraham Mateta, the human rights lawyers argued that Mateta, who is visually impaired and all visually impaired eligible voters have the right to cast their vote in secret or by secret ballot which is guaranteed in Section 67(3) of the Constitution.

This fundamental rights Maja and Mavedzenge argued, is likely to be violated if ZEC and other respondents cited in the application such as the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi and Attorney-General Advocate Prince Machaya do not put in place measures to print ballot papers in Braille or to print template ballot or to arrange tactile voting devices for use in the impending 2018 general elections.

The human rights lawyers want the High Court to intervene on an urgent basis to protect Mateta's rights and those of other visually impaired eligible voters to vote in secret.

In his founding affidavit filed together with the urgent court application, Mateta argued that certain key amendments have not been made to the Electoral Act despite promises by the government to effect the necessary changes to the electoral law so as to give effect to the right to vote in secret for all eligible voters.

Mateta argued that he is a disadvantaged and vulnerable person by virtue of being visually impaired and his rights are in danger from an imminent violation especially due to state inaction.

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