Zim citizens demand diaspora vote

Legislators have been implored to push for the inclusion of the Diaspora Vote in the Electoral Amendment Bill ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.

This came out during a virtual public hearing session held by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Tuesday.

The meeting sought to gather input from citizens on the Bill that was gazetted on November 18, 2022.

Citizens who participated in the meeting raised concerns about the silence of the Bill on the issue of the Diaspora vote despite an outcry from Zimbabweans resident in other countries.  

The Bill seeks to amend a number of issues that include the removal of a driver’s license as one of the documents to be used as proof of identity for electoral purposes since some driver’s licenses do not reflect citizenry as well as the requirement for every candidate to make a solemn declaration in a nomination form or that he or she is not a convicted of a disqualifying offence.

It will also seek to set a time limit that candidates will not be allowed to withdraw less than 21 days before polling and that notices of withdrawal will have to be sent to the Chief Elections Officer of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Participants highlighted that it is only fair for Zimbabweans in the diaspora to be allowed a chance to vote since those on national duty and those who work at embassies outside the country are allowed.

One participant, Driden Kunaka, said it is worrying that the Bill did not include anything on the Diaspora Vote despite several petitions that had been submitted to Parliament.

“I was actually surprised why the diaspora vote was left out after several petitions had been submitted to Parliament on the same,” he said.

Raviroyashe Mpasiri weighed in noting that Zimbabweans in the diaspora are doing a lot to improve the economy and them not getting a chance to vote is a violation of their rights.

Gift Mutero, another participant said, “Seems all diasporans have been relegated to exile and have all rights denied. Is there anyone in the parliament who represents diasporans? It seems we need a new structure in the incorporation of the diaspora.”

Another participant, Nyashadzashe Dube, noted that Section 67 of the Constitution provides for the Right to Vote and Inclusivity for all citizens. 

“This has not been fully embraced by the legal framework. Millions of citizens in the diaspora are still excluded from voting unless they are on state service. Persons in prisons, hospitals and personnel on duty are still excluded.”

One Ronnie Nubi highlighted that the bill should ensure the registration of all citizens eligible to vote, including prisoners, those who will be 18 by election day although they may be 17 during registration period and members of the Diaspora too.

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