By NQOBANI NDLOVU
AN independent election watchdog has called on authorities to immediately commence the process of facilitating the diaspora vote, saying any delay would continue to disenfranchise Zimbabweans living outside the country.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) made the call after Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told state media last week that government would commission a study next year on the feasibility of the diaspora vote.
Currently, the electoral laws prohibit Zimbabweans in the diaspora from casting their votes from foreign lands. At present, it is only government employees such as diplomats who enjoy the right to vote from outside the country under the postal voting model.
Ziyambi said government would commence a study next year on the diaspora vote and “once we have seen how others do it, we will then be able to make a decision on whether we need to amend the law to give effect to it or not.”
However, Zesn said such statements betrayed lack of political will, adding the right to cast a vote from the diaspora was guaranteed by several regional and international instruments such as the African Charter on Democracy, elections and governance under article 8.
“The country should amend the voter registration requirements as set out in section 23 of the electoral act and the 4th schedule of the constitution to allow for the diaspora electors to register in constituencies’ of their choice without resident requirements,” Zesn said in its position paper on the diaspora vote.
“If the diaspora vote is to be implemented for the 2023 election, the process must commence now in terms of putting in place the legal framework to allow for diaspora voting.
“A complete diaspora mapping has to be done in order to determine the number of Zimbabweans in each country. This will assist in the type of voting methodology to use. The government can work with institutions such as IOM that have conducted similar mapping exercises before…”
Last year, the Constitutional Court barred millions of Zimbabweans abroad from voting in the July 2018 elections.
The appeal had been filed by three Zimbabwean diasporans, Gabriel Shumba and Sibonile Mfumisi (both based in South Africa), and United Kingdom-based Darlington Nyambiya.
They had argued that section 23(3) of the Electoral Act must be revisited, so as to enable the country’s citizens living abroad to exercise their voting rights.
“In sum, it is clear from the foregoing that there is appetite for diaspora voting that is shared by key stakeholders in the electoral processes in Zimbabwe. It is also acknowledged that voting is a universal right that should not be infringed upon and should be exercised by all Zimbabweans regardless of their status,” Zesn added.