Zimbabweans in the diaspora will vote, but just not now’

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is considering ways to enable millions of its citizens based in other countries to cast their votes, Consul General Batiraishe Henry Mukonoweshuro told a belated Zimbabwe 38th Independence Day commemoration in Johannesburg.

Mukonoweshuro, however, hastened to say the diaspora vote, which Zimbabweans living in other countries have been calling for, would not be logistically possible for the imminent presidential elections, expected in June.

“I know there is a lot of clamouring for the diaspora vote; it is a thing that the government is thinking about. I think there is going to be an alignment of the electoral laws and the Constitution, [but] in terms of logistics it just may not be possible this year,” Mukonoweshuro told the gathering of diverse Zimbabweans on Friday, April 27.

“I think in the next five years, definitely. You will find that embassies and consulates, wherever we are domiciled, would be the areas where we will be able to vote as children of Zimbabwe. There are places where we don’t have representation, we will have partnership with those governments to ensure that people in the diaspora will be able to vote.”

Last month, the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe reserved judgment in the diaspora-based Zimbabweans’ bid to participate in the upcoming elections from their foreign bases across the world.

Currently, only Zimbabweans out of the country on official national duty are eligible to vote, while millions of their countrymen in those countries can only participate if they return to Zimbabwe to register, and on voting day.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, renowned Zimbabwean human rights lawyer based in South Africa Gabriel Shumba, another Zimbabwean based in South Africa Sibonile Mfumisi, and Uniten Kingdom-based political strategist and writer Darlington Nyambiya asked the court to instruct the justice ministry and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to facilitate the amendment of the Electoral Act.

Shumba, who was also at the belated 38th Independence Day commemorations hosted by the consulate, told the African News Agency (ANA) that his Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) was “excited” by the new administration in Zimbabwe’s exploration of the diaspora vote.

“The ZEF is excited that the new dispensation considers the diaspora as one of the bastions for meaningful development in Zimbabwe. We in particular welcome the statement made by the CG [Mukonoweshuro] today in Johannesburg that the diaspora vote is being considered by the government, and that the electoral laws will be aligned to make this a reality,” said Shumba.

“Although he mentioned that modalities may make this impossible [for] now, we remain hopeful and will continue to engage.”

Earlier, Shumba – a victim of torture who has been living in South Africa for the past 15 years – told ANA that Zimbabwe was now seemingly on the rebound.

He also cited the political tolerance currently in Zimbabwe, which saw the opposition MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa receiving a thunderous welcome at the official celebrations led by Mnangagwa at the National Sports Stadium in Harare. Shumba also revealed that he would travel to Zimbabwe this weekend, as exiled Zimbabweans return home in droves.