Human rights groups have expressed concern over the treatment of people with disabilities (PWDs) during the just-ended elections, with most of them experiencing challenges at polling stations.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), in their latest report on the elections, said the inclusion of PWDs was of great concern, particularly in Chipinge, where they recorded a high number of persons that were visually challenged that ended up being assisted to vote.

“The issue of inclusion of all citizens in the electoral process was of significant concern in the case of persons with disabilities and women, where they faced various challenges during the registration process at polling stations,” the ZPP report said.

“In Chipinge only, about 50 visually-impaired persons complained about giving up the secrecy of their vote by being assisted to vote, either by their elected assistants or by polling officers if the assistant was less than 18 years.”

ZPP said while at some polling stations vulnerable groups were attended to earlier than everyone else, including people with albinism, they noted that this was not standard practice at all polling stations.

“ZPP is happy that Zec, after appeals by PWDs for disability-friendly polling booths introduced for the first time polling booths for those on wheelchairs and those of a short stature,” they said.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) also pointed out in its preliminary report on the elections that at some of the provinces, they noted cases of general disorganisation on the part of the electoral management body with some polling stations missing and voters having to be redirected.

They also raised the issue of PWDs failing to get the correct infrastructure at polling stations to enable them to cast their votes properly.

“The ZHRC noted that as raised in its previous monitoring reports, some of the venues were not accessible to persons with disabilities and the elderly. It was observed there were steep steps at some school voting venues,” the ZHRC report stated.

They said some polling stations did not have adequate lighting, particularly in tents, which slowed the voting process.

“The process was slow with some voters having to wait for up to three hours to cast their vote,” ZHRC said.

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