The Diaspora Vote Initiative is a non-partisan group of Zimbabweans living in the diaspora who wish to vote in elections in Zimbabwe. Nationals of other SADC countries such as Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa allow their citizens living abroad to vote in national elections, and to Other countries are trying to put in place mechanisms to allow their citizens living in the diaspora to vote. .
Section 1(2) of the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states: “Elections law may prescribe additional residency requirements to ensure voters are placed on the most appropriate voters list, but such requirements must be consistent with this Constitution, in particular section 67.”
Aware that the Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, had announced his commitment to work towards implementing Diaspora voting by 2023, we wrote to the President on April 15, 2022 reminding him of his 2018 commitment, asking what progress had been made to implement the diaspora vote, asking to know the challenges, if any, facing the fulfillment of the pledge, and offering to help if we could.
There was no response.
After our letter, there were media reports contradicting President Mnangagwa’s commitment to implementing the Diaspora vote. Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told parliament that there would be no diaspora vote. According to him, the constitution must be amended to allow the vote of the diaspora.
In our view, there is no need to amend the constitution to allow for the Diaspora vote, as Article 1(2) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution of Zimbabwe specifically states that “the election law may prescribe additional residency requirements to ensure voters are placed on the most appropriate voters list, but such requirements shall be consistent with this Constitution, in particular section 67.”
The electoral law can be amended to allow the creation of polling stations in the country of residence of voters from the diaspora.
In any case, if a constitutional amendment was necessary, Parliament should have proposed the amendment. But even if the minister’s interpretation of the constitution is correct, the constitution is not set in stone and can be amended. It has already been amended by parliament to remove the running mate clause and include proportional representation youth parliamentary seats.
Zanu-PF political commissar Patrick Chinamasa said the Diaspora vote would only take place after the lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. It should be noted that it was not Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora who had sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, so sanctions should not be used as an excuse to deprive us of our right to vote.
Deliberate attempt to violate the right to vote
The contradictions that have come from ruling party officials indicate a deliberate attempt to violate our right to vote as enshrined in the constitution. We believe that if there was the will to grant the vote to the diaspora, as the president led the world to believe, the process of amending the electoral law or the constitution would have started immediately after the announcement .
After receiving no response to our letter to the President, we petitioned the parliament of Zimbabwe on September 8, 2022, praying that parliament would make legislative and/or constitutional amendments to enable us to vote.
Again, there was no response.
After submitting our petition to parliament, we met members of another group of Zimbabweans who had, in May 2021, submitted a similar petition to parliament. More than a year later, the parliament has failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that the diaspora vote will be possible in 2023, in line with the commitment expressed by President Mnangagwa.
So it seems that some elements of parliament are determined to take away our right to vote, and we need to fight hard and expose this corruption in parliament, to make sure our vote is granted.
Petition to the President
On September 26, 2022, we petitioned President Mnangagwa in accordance with Article 59 of the constitution of Zimbabwe, which grants citizens of Zimbabwe the freedom to protest and petition the authorities peacefully.
There was no acknowledgment of receipt of the petition.
Snubbed by parliament and the president, we approached the Southern African Development Community (SADC), through the chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Affairs, for intervention. We wrote to the current President, His Excellency Dr. Hage Geingob, on September 30, 2022, inviting him to intervene.
We view the failure to at least acknowledge our correspondence with the president and our petitions to parliament and the president as deliberate efforts to deny us the diaspora vote. The President should have used his executive power to get the Minister of Justice to consider the necessary amendments.
While the president and parliament have snubbed us, the president and many government officials recognize the crucial role the diaspora can play in national development.
The president wrote an article titled “No one but ourselves”, published in the Sunday Mail from March 20, 2022in which he recognizes the “repertoire of best skills and competencies” of Zimbabweans in the diaspora, and how these Zimbabweans “stay connected and engaged with their homeland”.
President Mnangagwa rightly pointed out that remittances from the diaspora have surpassed the billion dollar mark, making the Zimbabwean diaspora community “a real factor in national development – indeed, a force for the greater good”.
In the Sunday Mail article, President Mnangagwa described the diaspora as “equal, and equally important and deserving” as Zimbabwean citizens based in Zimbabwe.
If the diaspora is “equal, and equally important and deserving” as the president described it, it is disconcerting that our representations to his office and to parliament have been ignored.
We count on the support of the diaspora during critical periods. A article by Farai Marapira published on the Zanu-PF website quotes President Mnangagwa as saying:
“Given the ongoing national lockdown related to Covid-19 and following concerns from users of money transfer services, I have now directed the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to immediately address the constraints surrounding this financial service. essential…
“The new environment resulting from the national lockdown has increased our people’s reliance on remittances which also have the added benefit of directly reaching the most marginalized numbers in our nation.
“Due to the necessary national lockdown, livelihoods in the informal sector have been disrupted, forcing many households to depend on support from relatives abroad. It is therefore essential that our financial services institutions adapt their operations to the new emergency situation.
The government has announced that it is finalizing the modalities for establishing a Diaspora Bond for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to contribute to national development. Ironically, government institutions are not moving quickly to put in place the modalities for the diaspora vote.
Zimbabwean election authorities must act urgently to ensure Zimbabweans living in the diaspora get their right to vote – 2023 is possible. SM/MC
Padmore Kufa writes in his capacity as spokesperson for the Zimbabwe DiasporaVote Initiative. He can be reached at +61 414 477 659 or by email at [email protected]