HARARE – Government must stop disenfranchising millions of Zimbabweans in the forthcoming key 2018 vote by refusing to allow the Diaspora vote, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has said.
The rights lawyers said they were worried that the government continues to procrastinate in implementing recommendations of the African Union organs such as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), which in 2013 delivered a landmark ruling directing governments to allow citizens in the Diaspora to vote in national elections.
The rights lawyers said there was a ploy to bar Zimbabweans not resident in the country from voting in the 2018 presidential, parliamentary and municipal polls.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) head Rita Makarau has ruled out the possibility of expatriates voting from outside the country, saying the law does not provide for that.
She cited a Constitutional Court (Con-Court) ruling dismissing Tavengwa Bukaibenyu’s bid to compel the electoral management body to provide mechanisms for those in the Diaspora to cast their ballot.
“There is an issue that has come up time and again and we need to put an end to that. Will diasporeans be able to register to vote? Yes, they can register to vote.
“They can come back here, present themselves before a voter registration officer, with their proof of residence and an address within Zimbabwe. Come voting day, voting has been allocated to a polling station. Will we establish polling stations outside Zimbabwe? No!” Makarau said, adding “the law as it currently stands does not give us powers to do so.”
“The Con-Court, although it was using the old Constitution said no. We are being guided by that ruling unless it is changed.
“I just wanted that to be clear. We are not going to set up a polling station outside Zimbabwe not because we do not want to, but because the law said we cannot and the Con-Court, which is the highest court in the land, has come up in support of that position. So if you are to fight that battle do not bring it to Zec, please take it back to court.”
Opposition parties claim Zec’s move is clearly designed to deny the opposition millions of votes from mostly illegal immigrants eking out a living in SA and other foreign countries who are decidedly anti-President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, they said.
ZLHR also called for the speeding up of electoral reforms to ensure that the right to vote for all citizens is upheld through the creation of a conducive electoral environment that guarantees the respect and enjoyment of universal suffrage and fundamental freedoms.