ZESN calls for diasporan votes

The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) has called on Parliament to amend the Electoral Act, to allow diasporans the right to vote in the next general elections in 2023.

In January last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he agreed in principle with the diaspora vote but  due to “logistics and capacity” and it was not possible to do so in time for the July 31st harmonized elections.

In May last year the Consitutional Court rejected a bid for the diaspora vote, with the State arguing the “Constitution did not anticipate there would be diasporans.”

Giving oral evidence to the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in Harare on Thursday, ZESN director, Rindai Vava said diasporans should be allowed to vote since the government urged them to play a key role in Zimbabwe’s economy.

“The Constitution grants every Zimbabwean the right to vote, this  electoral law does not give life to, as it excludes millions in the diaspora, prison and hospital.

“In keeping with the thrust of the new dispensation to include citizens in the diaspora in national development, the selective inclusion of Zimbabweans in the diaspora and those in places of confinement and hospitals must be reviewed,” she said.

Vava argued that the diaspora vote should be considered given developments in other African countries in  the region such as Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.

Vava’s oral evidence was based an electoral petition submitted to Parliament in December last year.

The ZESN director also called for electoral reforms regarding special voting, delimitation, voter education, the voters roll and registration.

Vava said an expansion on special voting had to be considered to include citizens, such as hospital staff, nurses and doctors who will be on duty on election day.

Currently the special vote, which allows for postal voting which is almost exclusively for security forces and diplomats on foreign missions.

On the issue of delimitation, Rindai stated Zimbabwe had carried out the 2008, 2013 and 2018 elections using one set of delimitations.

“There is need to rationalise constituencies that are too big and those that are too small.

“A national census was conducted in 2012 which may properly guide the delimitation,” she said.

Vava said there is “no reason” why delimitation for the 2023 elections could not be timeously conducted.