A number of MDC-T prospective candidates based outside the country could see their budding political careers suffer a stillbirth as they may be barred from contesting the next polls since they have not been resident in Zimbabwe continuously for 12 months.
REPORT BY NQABA MATSHAZI
Among the prospective candidates are radio personalities Ezra Sibanda and Eric Knight and former journalists Sibanengi Dube and Grace Kwinjeh, who have all expressed an interest in contesting in the next election.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) states that for any person to contest an election, they should be ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe.
This is where the trio may come unstuck.
Sibanda and Knight are based in the United Kingdom, while Kwinjeh and Dube are resident in Belgium and South Africa respectively.
ZEC says a person may not be allowed to vote if they have not been resident within their constituency consistently for a period of 12 months.
“A voter who is registered on the voters roll for a constituency, other than a voter who had been registered in that constituency in terms of the proviso to Subsection (1), shall not be entitled to have his or her name retained on such roll if, for a continuous period of twelve months, he or she has ceased to reside in that constituency,” ZEC chief executive officer, Lovemore Sekeramayi said in a written response to questions.
The ZEC official added that for one to be a candidate, they must have been ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe for at least five years in the past 20 years, a provision which the trio may not be able to meet.
On its website, the electoral body also states that if a person has not been resident in their constituency for a period of 12 months, they may be removed from the voters roll.
“The constituency registrar must remove a person from the roll if he or she is satisfied that a voter registered on a voters roll has been absent from his or her constituency for a period of 12 months or longer and is not a voter who was registered with the approval of the Registrar-General of Voters in a constituency in which he or she was not resident,” reads the statement.
ZEC also goes on to say that one may be removed from the roll, if he or she “has left Zimbabwe with the intention of residing permanently outside”.
But MDC-T spokesman, Douglas Mwonzora insists that the trio has a right to contest, arguing that despite their stay in Europe, the trio was ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe.
“Anybody who is in the diaspora is ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe,” Mwonzora, a lawyer explained. “For example, if I am from Nyanga but I work in Harare, I am ordinarily resident in Nyanga. I cannot be said to be resident in Harare because I came to work in Harare.”
However, Mwonzora’s assertions are in contrast to what ZEC says, with the body giving exceptions for people who could register despite not being in their constituencies.
“The disqualification for absence for a period of 12 months will not apply to the following persons and spouses of a person residing outside his or her constituency while he or she is a vice president, minister, provincial governor or deputy minister,” the ZEC regulations read.
The regulations also say anyone who is outside the country while in service of the state, or serving an international organisation of which Zimbabwe is a member will be exempt from the requirements.
A person employed by a Zimbabwean resident or by a society or company the control and management of which are in Zimbabwe will also be exempt.
Mwonzora reiterated that the trio should also satisfy MDC-T provisions for contesting in elections, which included being a member of the party for a continuous period of five years.