TZ persons with disabilities call for tactile ballots in next elections

TZ Election Commission Boss, Judge (Rtd) Damian Lubuva says they are committed to boosting participation of people with disabilities in electoral process

TZ Election Commission Boss, Judge (Rtd) Damian Lubuva says they are committed to boosting participation of people with disabilities in electoral process

As the general elections draw closer in Tanzania, the federation of people with disabilities has voiced concerns on their members’ behalf they might be left out in the electoral process yet again.

For the sake of equality, fairness and justice the federation is urging the country’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) to ensure availability of tactile ballots during the October polls.

Historically, people with disabilities notably the blind have only been assisted by their helpers in elections increasing risks of being misled and cheated.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam Wednesda, Felician Mkude, secretary general of Tanzania federation of disabled people’s organisations (Shivyawata), was hopeful NEC will introduce tactile ballot for the first time in history.

He said the initiative would greatly help the people living with disabilities exercise their constitutional right to participate in the electoral process.

“Its good that NEC has accepted our proposal for ensuring we allocate tactile ballot at polling centres for persons with disabilities,” Mkude said at the ongoing workshop organised by the Foundation for Civil Societies in Tanzania.

The workshop brought together representatives of people living with a range of disabilities to discuss issues impinging on the rights of people living with disabilities during election season.

“Its in our expectations that NEC shall issue sample tactile ballots before end of this month,” Mkude added.

Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) Chairman Ernest Kimaya pointed out funding might be an issue as “currently there’s no such budget since during the just ended national budget debate the matter was not highlighted.”

He said “we need tactile ballots and sign language experts and should not be compromised in anyway with budget deficit.”

Kimaya called on the government to consider their concerns as a matter of urgency and improvise in terms of mobilizing resources.

Executive director of the Foundation for Civil Society, Francis Kiwanga, noted that due to previous efforts, including civic education and introduction of persons with disabilities Act, this year will see an increased participation of the group in the elections.

Government figures show that people with disabilities account for six per cent of total population of about 45 million people. According to data collected in 2004, there are about 350,000 blind people in the country.

NEC chairman Justice (rtd) Damian Lubuva reiterated the commission commitment toward improving people’s participation in the October elections