The World Health Organization and World Bank estimate that 15 per cent of the world’s Population has a disability meaning that there could be more than 1.5 million people with Disabilities in Zimbabwe. However, gaps still remain in the implementation of disability Policy across the Government, and there is a lack of information and awareness about the rights of people with disabilities from within the Government and across society as a whole. Article 29 (The Public Life and Political participation) grants the opportunity to be involved in Political life and it is at the heart of what it means to live in a democratic society. The right to political participation, including persons with disabilities, is firmly grounded in International law, enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Persons with disabilities are active citizens keen to be engaged in the political life of their communities.
During the Disability Inclusion Polling Station Assessment project, DHAT assessed seventy three (73) polling stations in Matobo, one hundred and nine (109) in Bulimia and fifty four (54) in Mangwe and hundred and three (103) in Insiza and twenty 20 in Beitbridge and 5 ZEC District offices and 1 ZEC Provincial office in Gwanda with an Average of 10 polling stations being assessed in a day at an average of 30 minutes per polling station. The total number of polling stations assessed was 364 inclusive of the ZEC offices. The impetus of the project was to assess the accessibility of Polling Stations to persons with disabilities in Matabeleland South. A participatory approach involving DPOs representatives, such as NASCO, Council of the Blind, DHAT and five others was used. DPOs were assigned to access the accessibility of polling stations and share information on disability inclusion. One of the key findings is that challenges to the realisation of the right to political participation for persons with disabilities still remain. Legal obstacles, such as restrictions on the right to vote for some persons with disabilities, and gaps between the promise of law and policy and their actual implementation, for example in the form of inaccessible polling stations persist.
The impact of the project will be the increased respect and recognition for equal civic rights of persons with disabilities, and the improved equal rights for PWDs to participate equally, in the electoral and political processes. The assessment indicated that ZEC officials had no or less information on disability awareness, this was evident in most schools, where the rooms had ramps; however the Presiding officer would choose a classroom without a ramp. Therefore there is need for disability awareness workshops for ZEC officials prior to elections.
DHAT conducted the polling station assessment planning meeting a week prior to the July 2018 Elections. A meeting was held with the Matabeleland South Provincial Elections officer In Gwanda. The outcome of the meeting was that permission was granted for DHAT to conduct a disability inclusive polling station assessment in Matobo, Mangwe, Bulilima, Insiza and Beitbridge. Further, meetings were held with district elections and education officers and administrators on polling station assessments in all the districts. The assessments commenced on the 6th of August 2018 and ended December 2018. Training on disability inclusive polling station assessment was conducted.
After the training, DHAT assessed seventy three (73) stations in Matobo, one hundred and nine (109) in Bulimia and fifty four (54) in Mangwe and hundred and three (103) in Insiza and twenty 20 in Beitbridge and 5 ZEC Districts offices and 1 ZEC Provincial office with an Average of 10 polling stations being assessed in a day at an average of 30 minutes per Polling station. The total number of polling stations assessed was 364 inclusive of the ZEC offices. In all our visits we were accompanied by a ZEC officials or representatives.
1.2 The Objective of the Assessment
- To assess the accessibility of Polling Stations to persons with disabilities in Matabeleland South.
- To share information with responsible authorities on barriers which inhibit the participation of persons with disabilities in elections.
- To recommend how the barriers can be eliminated for future elections.
- Project planning and mapping.
- Project inception meeting with the Provincial Elections Officer, District Administrators, District Elections Officers and District School Inspectors.
c) Polling Station Assessments
d) Polling station assessment field verification.
- 1.3 Summary of Activities and Achievements
Three Hundred and sixty-four (364) polling station where successfully assessed from
Matobo, Mangwe, Bulilima, Beitbridge and Insiza districts.
At the polling stations where buildings were being constructed, recommendations
were made for immediate adjustment according to specifications for the toilets and
classrooms. For example, Masotsha and Zinyama primary schools in Bulimia and
Mangwe districts where new classroom blocks are being built.