Zec should deliver Diaspora vote or face litigation

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) should facilitate the Diaspora vote or risk litigation, political and media practitioners have said.

They said the argument about whether or not Zimbabweans in the Diaspora should vote has been water under the bridge since the adoption of the “new” Constitution of Zimbabwe in 2013 which extended the right to vote to all citizens above the age of 18 years.

The analysts said it is therefore not up to Zec to determine that citizens outside the country will not be able to vote come 2018, but mandatory for Zec and other electoral stakeholders to urgently align electoral laws with the Constitution, thereby ensuring a level playing field in electoral processes.

The analysts said democracy entails giving everybody the opportunity to participate as the outcome of any election impacts on them.

The Diaspora population deserves a chance to contribute to Zimbabwe’s democracy not only because they are Zimbabwean nationals, but because they already constitute a “critical mass” with a lot to contribute to their country other than remitting money.

Since the Constitution is the supreme law giving the right to all citizens, it is incumbent upon Zec to set up administrative regulations to cater for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora even without alignment of electoral laws with the Constitution in the same manner they conducted voter registration without an enabling law.

Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said setting up of an administrative framework to facilitate Diaspora voting takes political will on the part of Zec and this can be done progressively.

“The right to vote is already enshrined in the Constitution, so Zec must act upon it by engaging fellow election management bodies that have been facilitating the same in countries such as South Africa and Mozambique.

“Through learning from their experience, Zec could explore practical steps of ensuring every Zimbabwean interested in voting can exercise the right through firstly, registering to vote by conducting a mapping exercise to find out where nationals interested in voting are located, exploring how they could also submit themselves to register and how they could cast their vote.

“Other countries have set up registration and voting centres at their embassies in other countries while others work with host election administration bodies to set up polling stations and administer the vote on their behalf.

“What is important to note is that Zec can progressively act in pursuance of the constitutional provision rather than insisting on the limitations of attempting to facilitate it.”

Chimhini said as Zec opens the new chapter of preparing for a new voters’ roll under a new Constitution, “it has a real opportunity to act religiously in accordance to the principles of electoral democracy which include that all citizens have equal rights to participate as voters and candidates, all citizens have equal voting power, secrecy of the vote must be ensured, voters must have meaningful access to electoral information, election administration must be conducted in a fair and non-partisan manner, elections must be held regularly and elections must be decided by a freely cast vote.

“We must be reminded that Diaspora voting is nothing new in Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans in the Diaspora on government business have always exercised their right to vote.

“Now given that the Constitution does not permit segregation and the principles of electoral democracy mention the equality of the vote, it would be logical to allow Zimbabweans on private business outside the same right that their colleagues on government business have. One cannot be denied a right to vote based on who their employer is.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said fundamentally, Zec has been captured by the Zanu PF regime’s tentacles of patronage and political surveillance.

“They are neither independent nor adequately capacitated; both materially and financially. The Constitution of Zimbabwe does allow Diasporan citizens to vote but the Zec chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau has already publicly announced that Diaspora-based Zimbabweans would have to come back to Zimbabwe to vote.

“She knows that the majority of Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora survive from hand-to-mouth and that they simply won’t afford the money to come back home to vote and then return to their foreign bases.”

Gutu said this is a well-calculated Zanu PF ploy to deny millions of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora their right to vote.

“The election is about 20 months away and it’s a public secret that Zec is broke. Thus, the chances of Zec being able to put up systems to enable Diaspora voting between now and 2018 are close to zero.”

The MDC spokesperson added that Zec should be taken to the Constitutional Court to force them to operationalise the Diaspora vote.

“They can’t continue to duck and dive, to blow hot and cold. Zec should be compelled to obey the letter and spirit of the supreme law of the land.”

Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said: “It appears there is genuine lack of planning and resources on the diaspora vote. Investment on time, policy and logistics on this matter is non-existent and, for me, Zec is making political considerations regardless of what the electoral law and Constitution say.

“Until and when citizen electoral rights are fully appreciated and implemented, then the diaspora vote will not be realised.”

Mukundu said there was a way to force Zec to facilitate the diaspora vote: “Litigation could be one way and mobilisation of public by political parties.”

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava could only say: “If there is political will, the Diaspora vote be achieved. In South Africa, it was done through a constitutional court challenge.”

ZimRights director Okay Machisa said: “Everyone has a duty to ensure that we respect the constitution. It is therefore critical that Zec be seen moving away from doing unconstitutional things and walk the talk of constitutionalism. We just have to implement the Constitution fully and in that Diaspora people have a right to vote.”

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said: “It’s very sad that Zimbabwe cannot afford a vote for millions of people in the Diaspora who contribute over $1 billion dollars in remittances for sustenance of the country’s economy.

“It is so ridiculous that government wants money from those in the Diaspora but don’t want the same people to vote.

“They are so afraid of a Diaspora vote, but not afraid of remittances the same Diaspora brings. Zec can manage logistics for Diaspora vote if they wanted. Their refusal to grant Diaspora vote is not logistical or financial, but political.”

Saungweme said there is need to put in place a system that ensures eligible Zimbabweans outside the country to register to vote.

“Once this is done, centres where people can vote such as our embassies can be equipped as polling stations. They can also develop and online voting system that is web-based.”

Political analyst Mcdonald Lewanika said 2018 is just a year away and Zec needs to be reminded that the constitution gave the vote to all Zimbabweans and it needs to fulfill that constitutional aspiration.

“The longer it takes to make provisions and put in place mechanisms for the Diaspora vote the more we move towards continued disenfranchisement of Zimbabweans.

“Although time is fast running out, there is still ample time to put in place mechanisms and plan for the Diaspora vote especially in place that are known to have a high concentration of Zimbabweans abroad like South Africa, Australia, the UK, Botswana and US, where the country also have establish embassies and consulates.”

Lewanika said elections are ultimately won on who turns out the vote — it is in the interests of those who stand to benefit electorally from the Diaspora vote to put pressure on Zec through constitutional and other legal challenges, as well as mass pressure through street action.

“Unlike electoral reforms in general which have a large legislative component, facilitating the vote is well in the province of Zec and something that they can realistically be pressured into doing something about and actually doing something about it.”

Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said: “Zec does not seem interested in the Diaspora vote, so the only way forward is for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to take the matter to the Constitutional Court for determination ahead of 2018 elections.”

Comments (2)

But those in the diaspora must wake and mobilise resources such money for litigation and lawyers like the Bezous now and not wait for 2018.

Diaspora - 23 November 2016

Listen to the childish adverts over the radio regarding bond notes...diaspora this diaspora that but refusing the same people the right to vote. As a country we need to move away from stupidity and embrace progress.

Sharia - 25 November 2016

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