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No diaspora votes as ZEC announces guidelines for by-elections

By Mutsa Makuvaza

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has published the COVID-19 Policy on Electoral Activities which are to provide guidance on procedures and conduct of electoral activities and/or processes in the current COVID-19 environment.

This came out when ZEC Chairperson Chigumba spoke on Wednesday about the vacancies in Parliament and Local Authorities. The elections boss also requested a budget of US$18 million to conduct the by-elections, most of which have arisen as a result of factional fights in the two opposition MDC splinter groups, one led by Nelson Chamisa and another led by former ally Thokozani Khupe.

Justice Chigumba announced the guidelines that have to be adhered to at polling stations. They are as follows:

  • The Presiding Officer shall ensure disinfection and regular cleaning of polling stations and ablution facilities.
  • The Presiding Officer shall ensure that an Attendance Register is maintained for all persons visiting the polling station for contact tracing purposes.
  • Election officials, Voters, Polling Agents and Election Observers are to wash their hands thoroughly using soapy running water, be sanitized upon entering and exiting polling stations, wear face masks, maintain social distancing and have temperature checks before commencement of any electoral activity.
  • The Commission shall provide adequate gloves for all the electoral officers during all stages of the electoral process.
  • For composite polling stations, temperature checks should be centralized and a screening certificate issued out to all persons entering polling stations.
  • Persons whose temperature is lower or higher than the recommended national standard ranges are recorded and not allowed into polling stations. Such persons shall be advised to visit their nearest health centres.
  • Polling stations to be arranged in such manner as to allow the required social distancing to be observed.
  • The pens provided at the polling station should be sanitized after use by each voter. Voters are however allowed to bring and use their own pens if they so wish.
  • Regular disinfection of polling booths during polls to be carried out.
  • Numbers of voters, polling agents/observers to in the polling station to be regulated periodically in order to allow for social distancing.
  • Where possible voting material for voters should be single-use or disinfected between users while minimizing handling of shared items.
  • All polling re-usable materials to be disinfected before storage.
  • Display of Covid-19 Information Education Communication materials to inform voters of the physical distances and other health regulation to be observed at the polling station
  • Polling shall take place between 7 am and 7 pm. However, anyone in the queue at the close of the poll shall not be turned away.

Meanwhile, Justice Chigumba also spoke on the Diaspora Vote under the current legal framework.

She stressed that diaspora vote cannot be achieved under the current laws unless Parliament looks into addressing the legality of the Diaspora Vote However for the 2023 general elections, ZEC is looking to extend Postal Vote to those already registered in the diaspora.

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