MASVINGO-Government has been challenged to put in place mechanisms to allow those who are mentally handicapped, but with the required documents to have votes cast on their behalf by their guardians.
This was said by National Council of Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe Masvingo Branch secretary, Moses Chitombo in an interview with The Mirror recently.
“Those who have attained the age of voting even if they are mentally handicapped and are staying with someone, that someone should be able to vote on behalf of the disabled person as long he or she has the required documents.
“If I stay with a mentally handicapped person I should be allowed to vote on behalf of that person in order to increase the chances of my preferred candidate to win because I know the person will serve my interests as well as those of my dependent since I am the one who looks after her or him,” said Chitombo.
The Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi said even if the person is a known mental patient there are times when they are in a good frame of mind, they should be allowed to vote if they have their documents in order.
“One cannot be mentally handicapped all the time, there are some who take their medication and if they do that they can be allowed to vote as long as they are in a good mental state. However, I will check the Act to find out what it exactly says and if it discriminates against such citizens I will have it removed,” said Ziyambi.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), Chief Elections Officer, Utioile Silaigwana said the Constitution’s VI Schedule has a clause on how one is stripped of voting rights and it is up to the citizens to lobby for the change of the Constitution and the Act through their representatives.
“If one is declared by order of the court that they are not in a stable mental position the law says they cannot vote and if society feels there is need to change that they can lobby their legislators to effect the necessary changes, ours is not to change the law but to implement it,” said Siliagwana.
Solomon Bobosibunu of the Electoral Resource Centre said the law does not have a provision for the mentally handicapped to participate in elections in this country.
Bobosibunu said if one develops a mental illness even after registration and it can be proved, the Commission can strike that person off the voters’ roll because the law allows for that.
“If one develops a mental problem just after registration or before elections one can still be disqualified as long as the Commission receives the report and there is evidence that the person is no longer of sound mind. Just like a sitting MP, President or Judge who can be removed due to imprisonment or mental handicap.
“According to the VI Schedule of the Constitution that deals with disqualification as a voter, Part II says the person is disqualified as a voter while she is mentally handicapped or intellectually handicapped under an Act of Parliament relating to mental health.
“In that regard they cannot be registered as a voter after he or she has been declared by order of a court to be incapable of managing his/her affairs for so long as the order remains in force, those are some of the reasons why one may not be registered to vote,” he added.
Chitombo also said they are against the idea of assisted voting by Police or ZEC officials for people with disabilities because that removes the whole concept of one’s vote being a secret.
He said ZEC should put in place all possible measures to ensure that there is no assisted voting for people with disabilities.