LAST week the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) published 4 474 centres, where eligible voters who have not yet registered to vote should go to register. People who are already registered can also go to these centres and re-register if they so wish to change constituencies they want to vote in.
This is a vital process demanded by all democracies, and every Zimbabwean citizen aged 18 and above should take this opportunity to present themselves at registration centres and make sure they participate in this year’s elections.
While many have in the past not bothered to participate in the electoral processes, arguing that their participation would not change anything, we believe this kind of mentality is so retrogressive and will only serve to destroy our fledgling democracy.
Thousands have been so frustrated by the country’s electoral processes that they decided to leave the country all together.
We, however, wish to remind all those who have given up on the country’s electoral processes that voting is a right that many before us died for and all Zimbabweans alive today should not take this right for granted.
All our relatives who have since emigrated to the diaspora must make an effort to return home from today until March 21 when the final Zec mobile registration blitz ends.
The appeal loudly goes to our relatives who are in neighbouring countries, especially South Africa, where we all know that come June 30, thousands of them will face deportation when their exemption permits expire.
While many of the 178 000 Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (Zep) holders and millions of others playing cat and mouse games with South African authorities are praying and hoping that the South African government reconsiders its decision not to renew the permits, we believe it is their obligation to drive, fly or hitch hike back home this week and register to vote because this is their country and they cannot allow a few people to decide their future.
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Most of the people in the diaspora are out there not by choice, but were driven there by grinding poverty due to a tanking economy and political persecution.
The Zep holders and others who are undocumented must come back home to register to vote for the sake of the country’s future and in the event that they are forced to return, it will at least not hurt much because they would have played their part in deciding who leads the country from the community to the national level.
With the general elections set for August, it is painfully inevitable that groups such as Dudula will increase pressure on the Zimbabweans in South Africa to return home to vote and it will be excruciatingly painful for the Zimbabweans domiciled in South Africa to come back during election time and see others going to vote.
They lose absolutely nothing by coming back home just for one day or two to register to vote. If they cannot make it this week, they can still come back to register at Zec’s district registration centres which will still be open after the blitz until polling dates are announced.
We have heard that both the ruling Zanu PF party and the opposition parties have many branches in the diaspora and it is our sincere hope that they are campaigning out there that Zimbabweans there come back to register to vote.
For the opposition, instead of mourning for amendments to the country’s electoral laws, they should be organising transport to ferry all the eligible voters from all countries in the Southern African Development Community to come back home for this important exercise whose outcome decides how our tomorrow will be governed.