By Blessings Mashaya CHIEF WRITER

PARLIAMENT will amend the Electoral Act this year, as authorities bid to end the country’s troubling history of disputed polls, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, pictured, has said.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Ziyambi — who is also a Zanu PF politburo member and leader of government business in Parliament — also said the ruling party was happy to engage with the opposition on these reforms.

“We have a few areas where we feel that we need to amend the Electoral Act this year … and anyone can bring anything that they feel might need attention.

“We are open to progressive engagement and ideas ahead of the 2023 elections that will enhance our democracy.

“We have tried to change other laws and we now have the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act, which is very progressive,” Ziyambi said.

The Zvimba West legislator further revealed that Cabinet was currently seized with the issue of reforms, although he made it clear that he was not at liberty to discuss its exact contents.

“I will not mention the areas we feel that there is need for amendments. For now it will be premature to pre-empt what we are proposing.

“However, each time we are approaching elections, some opposition parties always try to find a scapegoat. Some are just repeating the same thing so that their masters will hear them.

“We are open to progressive engagement and ideas ahead of 2023 elections that will enhance our democracy,” Ziyambi added.

This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that all outstanding parliamentary and local government by-elections will be held on March 26.

It also comes as the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) has proposed a raft of reforms which it says will help end the country’s long history of disputed elections if they are implemented.

Polad is a platform where Mnangagwa regularly meets with leaders of small opposition parties who contested him in the 2018 presidential elections.

In their position paper, Polad members said State funding of political parties needed to be widened to promote a multi-party democracy.

“The current system of State funding of political parties does not promote the growth of a truly democratic multi-party system.

“It does not take into account all votes cast in a general election.

“It has a very high minimum threshold of five percent of votes cast and it does not consider votes cast for the president and for local councillors,” Polad members have said.

“It is proposed that the Political Parties (Finance) Act be repealed and a new financing model put into the Electoral Act.

“In that new model, the funding must be for three separate elections — namely presidential, parliamentary and local authorities.

“Polad recommends that consideration be given to changing the electoral system to proportional representation. This requires amendment of the Constitution,” they added.

Polad members have also proposed that the nomination of candidates be opened over a five-day period.

“The number of nominators for presidential candidates will be increased from 100 to 200, with the nominators being from at least five provinces.

“The current system requires a presidential candidate to be nominated by a minimum of 10 voters from each province, making a minimum total of 100.

“Zec must be obliged by a specific provision of the Electoral Act to inform voters via both the print and electronic media of the names of candidates,” they said further.

“The current law only obliges Zec to gazette the names of candidates. No voter consults the government gazette for names of candidates.

“Voters rely on the media for news about candidates.

“Ballot papers must also have a single vertical column of names of candidates in alphabetic order of surnames, whatever the length,” the Polad members further proposed.

They added that assisted voters needed to be over 70 years of age.

“There must be Braille voting for blind voters. Blind voters, like all other voters, are entitled to exercise their right to vote in secret.

“The Electoral Act must have a specific provision that makes it mandatory for Zec to provide for Braille voting,” they also said.

All this also comes as the opposition has continued to accuse Zanu PF of dragging its heels on implementing a raft of needed reforms — including some it claims are still outstanding from the deal that ushered the short-lived 2009 government of national unity.

The opposition says it does not want a repeat of the 2008 elections in which election results were held for six weeks, amid ballot fraud allegations — after the late former president Robert Mugabe lost that poll hands down to the much-loved late MDC founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai.

This later forced a presidential run-off from which Tsvangirai pulled out of citing massive violence against his supporters — leaving Mugabe to participate in a sham and widely-condemned one-man election.