HomeOpinion & AnalysisDon’t strip Zim diasporans of their voting rights

Don’t strip Zim diasporans of their voting rights

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WITH the 2023 elections looming large, the political script playing out in Zimbabwe is familiar not only to me, but many other citizens who are now fed up with the political disenfranchisement of fellow countrymen living outside our borders.

Cliff Chiduku

On June 24, 2021, Zanu PF acting political commissar Patrick Chinamasa issued one of the most reckless statements for someone in his position, insinuating that those in the diaspora would not be allowed to vote “until sanctions have been removed”.

“If you want a diaspora vote, first level the playing field by removing sanctions so that Zanu PF can go there and campaign freely without being vetted against sanctions. We will not allow those in the diaspora the right to vote because we are under sanctions in those countries.

“I cannot go to campaign in the United Kingdom because of sanctions as we all know and as long as that situation persists, we will say no vote to people in the diaspora because we will be allowing only those who have been asking for sanctions to have access to that electorate. That, of course, is not acceptable, and we will not allow it. Sanctions must fall and then we will start talking about diaspora vote,” Chinamasa said.

Section 67 of the Constitution guarantees the right of every Zimbabwean aged 18 years and above to vote, but it does not explicitly mention diaspora vote, despite having been interpreted by some legal experts to mean such.

Chinamasa totally misses the point that most people left this country because of the ruinous policies of the very government he burns the midnight oil propping up.

Zanu PF confesses to brazen violation of the Constitution by denying Zimbabweans in the diaspora their right to vote and accusing them of lobbying for sanctions to be imposed on their motherland.

For reasons best known to Chinamasa, the Zanu PF political tsar avoided mentioning that human rights abuses and a breakdown in the rule of law led millions to seek political and economic asylum abroad.

By resorting to the propaganda card, Chinamasa ignored Zanu PF’s complicity in the matter due to its refusal to address rights violations, electoral reforms, freedom of speech and association, draconian laws among many others which are tantamount to Zanu PF shooting itself in the foot.

The more than three million Zimbabweans domiciled outside the country did not invite sanctions on Zimbabwe.

They are innocent, hardworking and suffering people whose main dream is to have  food on the table and a roof over their heads instead of cheap politicking.

We call on Zanu PF to engage Britain and America and address their demands as well as desist from blatant corruption, looting and dictatorship. Western countries among them United States, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and the European Union slapped some Zanu PF chefs with travel bans over human rights abuses. The sanctions include travel restrictions to those countries and an assets freeze.

Such human rights violations are what brought sanctions on them.

It’s every Zimbabwean in the diaspora’s dream to live and work in the country of their birth, but Zanu PF has failed to lead and provide decent employment opportunities and has shrunk the democratic space, forcing millions to migrate to other countries in order to survive.

Instead of being dismissive and haughty, Chinamasa should appreciate that the very people whose rights the “ruining” party is trampling on are sending billions of dollars back home in remittances which are helping to keep the country afloat.

Diasporans contribute to the development of the country through remittances, skills and knowledge transfer, establishing connections and networks and investing in business ventures or technology transfer.

Some have companies back home that employ thousands of people. Others support philanthropic causes in education and health.

Chinamasa should ask Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya how much these economic and political refugees remitted to the country in the past years and how this has prevented the country’s economy from collapsing.

According to the RBZ, in 2020 Zimbabweans in the diaspora remitted US$1 billion which translates to 5% of the gross domestic product. These diaspora remittances are Zimbabwe’s second biggest source of foreign currency earnings after mineral revenue.

Had the economy been performing, there would be no need for Zimbabweans to cross the border to do menial jobs in lands yonder.

But as every Zimbabwean knows, there has been a collapse of the rule of law, with the law being applied in a partisan manner and COVID-19 has worsened the situation.

The Zanu PF acting political commissar is trying to create a “them and us” wedge between Zimbabweans in the diaspora and those at home, but that does not work, as we all belong to one country.

Chinamasa’s statement betrays a shocking sense of exceptionalism, which is not backed by any facts, where he thinks just because he and a few others are living in luxury the rest of the country is in that category.

It is clear from Chinamasa’s statements that he, like most officials in the higher echelons of power, is out of touch with reality, hence such statements.

Chinamasa and the government should work on engaging the diaspora rather than this mentality where they think they are better than everyone else.

Diaspora vote is one of the key electoral reform demands which civic society organisations believe may enhance the country’s democracy and electoral processes.

Denying Zimbabweans in the diaspora the right to vote is tantamount to disenfranchising them and stripping them of their sense of belonging.

Cliff Chiduku is a journalist studying for a MSc in Public Policy and Governance at the University of Zimbabwe. He writes here in his personal capacity. Feedback: cchiduku@gmail.com, Twitter:@ChifChiduku

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