TWO Bulawayo-based journalists, Mandla Tshuma and Lulu Brenda Harris have petitioned Parliament to amend section 73 of the Electoral Act to include journalists in postal voting during the 2023 polls.
Currently, the Electoral Act allows workers in the security services and civil servants working outside the country to do postal voting.
Tshuma of Magwegwe in Bulawayo and Harris of Queens Park filed their petition on April 5 this year, but the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda announced the petition in the House on July 20.
“We, the undersigned, being citizens of Zimbabwe, rely on section 149 (Right to Petition Parliament) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act, 2013 (as amended) (Constitution) to draw the attention of the House to the following: ‘The Constitution mandates the Parliament of Zimbabwe to make laws, carry out executive oversight and discharge a representative role, as well as protect the Constitution and democratic governance in Zimbabwe. Section 67 (Political rights) of the Constitution enshrines the right to vote in all elections and referendums to which [the] Constitution or any mother law applies, and to do so in secret (Section 67(3)(a)),’” partly read their petition.
They said the media was an essential service as stipulated in Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020, which classified the media as an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The journalists said while most people were confined to their homes for the greater part of 2020, journalists, security services and medical personnel, among others, went about doing their national duties.
“Sadly, the country’s laws only allow postal voting for members of the security services and other government employees (including their spouses) while turning a blind eye to media practitioners who during polls are deployed to cover elections outside their constituencies.
“The discriminatory nature of our laws has resulted in journalists failing to exercise their democratic right to vote in the previous elections. We pray that this should not be allowed to continue under the new dispensation,” the petition added.
Last week, Mudenda notified Parliament of receipt of the petition.
“I have to inform the House that on Monday, July 18, 2022, I received a petition from Mandla Tshuma and Lulu Harris beseeching Parliament to amend section 73 of the Electoral Act to include journalists among persons who qualify for postal voting ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections. The petition has since been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs,” Mudenda said. Newsday