High Court Denies Blind People Secret Voting

High Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe, has dismissed an application filed by a visually-impaired potential voter, Abraham Mateta, who had petitioned the court seeking an order to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to print braille ballot papers to visually-impaired potential voters to exercise their voting rights in next week’s polls.

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Through his lawyers Innocent Maja and Justice Mavedzenge, Mateta filed an urgent court application in the High Court on May 11, 2018 seeking an order to compel Zec to print some ballot papers in braille, to print the template ballot and/or to provide tactile voting devices for the visually impaired potential voters.

But Justice Hungwe dismissed the matter, saying Zec had indicated that it was going to put in place measures that would ensure the visually-impaired would be catered for.

“The law permits the visually-impaired voters to bring their trusted persons to assist them in casting their votes….there is consensus that the visually-impaired persons bring with them a person of their choice to the voting places and if nobody is present to assist, election officials will be present to render assistance to them in terms of the Electoral Act,” he ruled.

In his application, Mateta had argued that visually impaired eligible voters had the right to cast their vote in secret or by secret ballot as provided for under Section 67(3) of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Justice Hungwe also dismissed another application that had been filed by a civil society organisation, Veritas alongside Valerie Ingram-Thorpe and Brian Desmond Crozier, seeking to compel Zec to conduct elections in a transparent manner.

Veritas had argued that Zec was required by the Constitution to promote transparency in all its operations in terms of section 3 (2) (g) and section 233 (d) of the Constitution, hence its petition seeking a declaratory order that Zec should avail, for public scrutiny, all its standard operating procedures, processes, policies and internal manuals relating to the conducting of elections, including the 2018 harmonised polls.

But Justice Hungwe dismissed the application, saying a court has no jurisdiction to intervene in Zec’s administrative decisions, adding the granting of a declaratory order by the courts was discretionary.

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