By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
As the country draws near to the much awaited 2018 general elections scheduled for 30 July, people living with disabilities have called on the country’s election board to consider availing polling booths that will also cater for the disabled.
People living with disabilities have been left behind in various national events and programs due to lack of friendly infrastructure and assistive devices.
Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko told delegates at a workshop organised in conjunction with the Centre for Investigative Journalism Zimbabwe (CIJZ) that people living with disabilities are demanding accessible polling booths.
“Our engagement with the People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) has revealed that most of them are grappling with the accessibility of the polling booths. For example, we had one disabled person who said he was short and will not be able to reach where the ballot paper will be so he would need assistance which may compromise the secrecy of his vote,” she said.
Mukoko added that most of the disabled people were of the view that the electoral body should embrace technology to do away with voter assistance.
“The disabled are saying there is no need for voter assistance in this digital era,” Mukoko said.
While the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has not done much to cater for persons with disabilities in its various election processes, Section 51 (1a) and (1b) of the Electoral Act provides that a polling station must be accessible to the public, including people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Peace Project says it has roped in people living with disabilities to also monitor human rights violations after realising that they were also facing serious human rights abuses.
Mukoko also took the opportunity to indicate applaud the decrease in cases of politically motivated violence, adding that it’s much better than previous elections where violence and intimidation was the order of the day.
She, however, raised concern over the continuation by traditional leaders to playing active roles in intimidating people and manipulating the smooth flow of the electoral processes.
“The current environment is relatively peaceful but it is the role traditional leaders continue to play in politics that is worrisome as it equally poses intimidation to voters,” she said.