HARARE – Zimbabwe’s proposed Electoral Act Amendment Bill has sparked controversy, with several sitting opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) councillors and Members of Parliament (MPs) facing disqualification from contesting in the upcoming elections. The heavily criticised bill, which was gazetted last year, aims to disqualify aspiring candidates with criminal records.

If the bill is signed into law before the elections, several CCC sitting legislators and councillors, including other aspiring candidates, could be barred from contesting. Among the litany of changes, the Bill seeks disqualification of previously convicted persons from contesting in national elections.

Legislators or councillors will be disqualified if they commit physical violence or dishonesty crimes and get convicted within a period of 12 months before the date of nomination as a candidate.

Several CCC sitting legislators and councillors, including other aspiring candidates, are facing various criminal offences and may be barred from contesting if the Bill is signed into law. Some of the CCC’s sitting Harare councillors with pending cases include Herbert Gomba, Denford Ngadziore, Kudzai Kadzombe, Stanley Manyenga, and Godfrey Kurauone. Kurauone has since skipped the country’s borders.

Sitting CCC Members of Parliament with pending cases include vice-president Tendai Biti, acting national organiser Amos Chibaya, acting deputy chairperson Job Sikhala, Joanah Mamombe, Godfrey Sithole, Costa Machingauta, and David Chimhini. Also, vice-president Lynette Karenyi-Kore and aspiring legislator Vimbai Tome have pending cases.

CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere was convicted last week by a Harare magistrate and fined US$500 or three months in jail for publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the State. Sikhala is now left with two months to clock a year behind bars on charges of inciting public violence and obstructing the course of justice.

The CCC has accused the government of attempting to silence opposition voices by proposing this bill. In a statement, they said, “This amendment is calculated to ensure our members who are facing targeted prosecutions and are victims of clear weaponisation of the law to silence the opposition do not stand as candidates. This implied disqualification clause for parliamentary candidates violates and is ultra vires the Constitution.”

Lawyer Chris Mhike has also criticised the proposed law, stating that it is unjust and grossly unfair. “It is our hope that the limitations suggested in the Bill never see the light of day, specifically under the current socio-political and legislative framework,” he said.

The bill is currently in its Second Reading Stage and will then go to the Committee Reading Stage before the Third Reading Stage. If it is signed into law before the polls, it will be implemented during this year’s elections, which are likely to be held between July 26 and August 26.

The controversy over the bill highlights the ongoing tensions between the government and opposition parties in Zimbabwe. It remains to be seen how the situation will unfold, and whether the proposed law will be signed into law before the upcoming elections.

Source -MasimbaNews ✍🏿

By Power

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