Daniel Nemukuyu, Harare Bureau
In a move meant to ensure fair, peaceful and credible elections, Chief Justice Luke Malaba has designated 57 magistrates to expeditiously handle cases of politically-motivated violence and intimidation in the country’s 10 provinces.
A special court was gazetted under General Notice 379 of 2018 with a view to ensure the nation of a free, fair and credible 2018 election.
This year’s harmonised elections will be held on July 30.
According to the notice issued by the judiciary boss, who is also chairman of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the courts sit during the pre-election, election and the post-election period.
“It is hereby declared that the Judicial Service Commission, in terms of Section 133 J(3) of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13), has designated the magistrates listed in the schedule below to try cases of politically motivated violence and intimidation in the provinces under which their names appear before, during and after the harmonised elections for President, Members of the National Assembly, Senators and Councillors scheduled to take place on Monday 30th July 2018,” said Chief Justice Malaba in the Gazette.
JSC acting secretary Mr Walter Chikwana said the special courts would expeditiously deal with all cases brought before them.
“The special courts were established in compliance with the Electoral Amendment Act,” he said. “Such courts will try and finalise criminal cases brought before them with expedience.
“The setting up of the courts, according to the law, follows the proclamation of the election date by the President.”
The recently signed Electoral Amendment Act prohibits politically motivated violence and intimidation.
Part of the Act reads:
“No political party or any of its members or supporters and no candidate, any of his or her supporters and no stakeholders may —
a) Use violence or threaten violence or incite or encourage the use of violence, against anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party or participation in the election;
b) Intimidate, or incite or encourage the intimidation of anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party or act in a way that may provoke violence or intimidation.”
The Act also prohibits the use of violence or threats to force others to refrain from voting for a candidate of their choice.
It also prohibits forcing people to vote for a candidate they do not like.
Bribing an election official to induce him or her to make a false entry in the voters’ roll or to alter election results will attract a penalty.
Use of hate language which incites violence through songs, speeches and slogans is also prohibited.
Publishing false or defamatory allegations about a party or its candidates is also not allowed under the Act.
Carrying weapons at political meetings, marches, demonstrations or rallies is prohibited.