Con-Court to hear legal challenge to Diaspora vote ban

HARARE - The Constitutional Court will on January 18 hear details of the legal challenge to government’s decision to bar expatriate Zimbabweans from voting from their foreign bases in the forthcoming key 2018 vote.

Chief Justice Luke Malaba will hear that a judicial review application lodged over whether government has the power to bar Zimbabweans not resident in the country from voting in the 2018 presidential, parliamentary and municipal polls.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) acting chair Emmanuel Magade, Zec, Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Attorney General Prince Machaya are cited as respondents.

The case has been brought on behalf of human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba, who lives in exile in South Africa, Sibonile Mfumisi, also resident in South Africa, and Darlington Nyambiya, who is living and working in the United Kingdom, by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

The rights lawyers argue that the country’s Constitution, which came into force in 2013, guarantees the right to vote for all citizens.

According to a notice of set-down issued on Monday, the matter will be heard in less than a month from now.

“Take notice that the above application will be heard before (Luke) Malaba CJ (Chief Justice), in chambers on Thursday the 18th day of January 2018 at 11:00hrs or so soon thereafter as counsel may be heard. The parties should have filed heads of argument by not later than 4:00pm on January 8, 2018,” reads the notice of set-down.

According to court papers, the applicants argued that Section 67 (3) of the Constitution states that: “Every Zimbabwean citizen who is of or over 18 years of age has the right to vote in all elections and referendums to which this Constitution or any other law applies, and to do so in secret.”

They further argued that some provisions of the Electoral Act prevent Zimbabwean citizens living and working outside the country from exercising their right to vote unless they are able to physically come to Zimbabwe to vote.

“Respondents should be ordered to put in place all appropriate measures to enable the applicants’ registration and participation in the 2018 presidential, parliamentary and local authority elections as voters,” the court heard.

At least more than 3 million Zimbabweans are living outside the country in search of greener pastures following a debilitating economic and political situation.

But those in the diaspora said they are still entitled to make an input in the running of the country’s affairs, including the right to vote.

“I regularly send remittances to relatives who remain in Zimbabwe. I was heartened to note that in terms of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Policy, the government acknowledges that the Zimbabwe diaspora wishes to be engaged as active citizens in national dialogue and affairs as they bring international exposure and lessons to the table. I also continue to have a vested interest in the electoral processes of my country, and keenly monitor events back home,” Shumba said in an affidavit.