The Professor Welshman Ncube led MDC has slammed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for reneging on its earlier promise to introduce braille ballot papers to cater for the visually impaired voters in the upcoming harmonized elections.
In an interview with a state owned paper, Sunday, ZEC Chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said braille ballot papers would not be used in the upcoming polls.
“On Braille ballot papers, we have not done a survey as a commission to determine how many people we have who can actually read Braille,” she was quoted as having said.
“It’s not everyone who is visually impaired who has been taught how to read Braille, so until and unless we have done that for 2018 elections we are not going to have Braille ballot papers, but we are certainly looking at it for the next election.”
MDC National spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said, “the admission is quite shocking, coming a few months away from the polls”.
“We ask, from the last election (2013) was the commission not aware that a significant part of the electorate constitutes visually impaired voters and would require such material? Is this a deliberate ploy to sideline one voting block? Zec is disenfranchising the visually impaired electorate which in no doubt is eager and willing to vote for real change in the upcoming elections”.
The opposition party noted that the failure to introduce disability friendly voting will disefranchise a significant voting population and was a sign that the electoral body is not prepared to handle the plebiscite.
“Granted, in the absence of Braille ballot papers, the electoral law has provisions for the blind to be assisted to vote by officers presiding over polling stations in the presence of a police officer and agents of contesting political parties, however this is not adequate or safe,’ said Chihwayi.
“MDC implores ZEC to introduce disability friendly voting material, which allows the visually impaired, the deaf and dumb as well as the wheelchair bound to cast their votes without much assistance from the able-bodied as this at times compromises their constitutional right to secret voting”.
Chihwayi implored ZEC to “guard against a repeat of 2013 polls which saw a large number of votes stolen through the so called ‘assisted votes’”.