The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has called on politicians and other relevant stakeholders to start submitting proposals and frameworks on how to the country can implement conduct a Diaspora vote for nations living outside the country.
Currently, the law in place limits voting rights to only those who are on official government assignments while general Zimbabweans in foreign lands are required to be physically present at their locally registered polling station in order for them to vote.
This limitation caused uproar as Zimbabwe has a large number of people in the diaspora such as South Africa and the United Kingdom, prompting a court challenge in 2018 by three individuals in the diaspora who sought to compel ZEC to facilitate their voting in the harmonised elections.
The Constitutional Court, however, dismissed the challenge, saying Zimbabwe does not have a legal framework for the Diaspora vote and that ZEC was not under any obligation to set up polling stations outside the country.
But ZEC says it is key for stakeholders to start finding a model that can be implemented in Zimbabwe and cater for the many people living in the Diaspora in time for the next election poll in 2023.
“We understand concerns made on the numbers of people outside, for example, those that are in South Africa who come from Matabeleland but what is very key and should be understood is very few of these people come for elections. So what needs to be done therefore is a push for Diaspora vote,” said ZEC Commissioner, Dr Qhubani Moyo, in an interview with CITE.
Dr Moyo said ZEC has ‘continuously’ indicated that as a commission it has to follow the law so politicians in Parliament must work to change the laws and make sure there was a formula around diaspora vote.
“Once that formula is there, then clearly we will be gladly available to implement that. What is key is to try and find out the model for Diaspora vote that can be implemented in Zimbabwe,” said the ZEC commissioner.
“We understand there are many Zimbabweans in the Diaspora that need to have voice and contribute a lot to this country but now the question is how then do you make sure that those come to vote.”
The commissioner highlighted that other countries had designated about two or so constituencies for those who were Diaspora, as a way of making sure they also partook in national processes.
But, Dr Moyo lamented that locally, no one has really come up with a model that can be adapted for use in Zimbabwe or to make sure those in the Diaspora have a voice.
“I think the next level of debate should be around this so we introduce the Diaspora vote gradually in a way and manner that is acceptable to all the key stakeholders,” said the ZEC commissioner.
Besides calls for a Diaspora vote, stakeholders have also cast doubt on ZEC’s proposal to delink delimitation of constituencies from the national census, saying it was supposed to take into account geographical areas and size of places among numbers of registered voters.
“One of the things supposed to be considered is the population and that worries some of us who come from the south (Matabeleland). We know there’s population movement, look at how many people cross the border during the holiday season and that tells a big story, meaning the population of the place counts,” MDC Secretary for Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Kucaca Phulu, once said.