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Zimbabwe slammed for its continued silence over the Diaspora vote

by SW Radio Africa
05 Jun 2013 at 03:29hrs | Views
The government of Zimbabwe has been slammed for its continued silence over the Diaspora vote, in defiance of the continent's top human rights court.                        

The African Commission on Human and People's Rights in February ordered the government to make provisions allowing Zimbabweans abroad to use the postal voting system during the March referendum.

The ruling followed a case filed by The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), on behalf of exiled Zimbabweans Gabriel Shumba, Kumbirai Muchemwa, Gilbert Chamunorwa, Diana Zimbudzana and Solomon Chikohwero.

The Commission's ruling directed the government to provide all eligible voters, including the five mentioned in the case, the same voting rights as Zimbabweans working abroad in the service of the government.

The court stated that the government must report back on the implementation of this provisional measure within 15 days of receipt the order.

But the Zim government has continued to take advantage of the body's lack of enforcement powers and ignored the ruling, resulting in Zimbabweans living in South Africa failing to vote in the March 16 referendum.

Now it has emerged that another Zimbabwean residing in South Africa will have to wait at least until August to know whether he will be allowed to vote in the upcoming elections.

According to ZLHR, Tawengwa Bukaibenyu's lawyers last year filed an application at the Supreme Court (sitting as a Constitutional Court) challenging the barring of postal votes for ordinary Zimbabweans, which he argued violated his rights to choose his country's government.

The Supreme Court had initially set down the matter to be heard Thursday, but the matter has since been postponed to August.

If elections are held by July 31st as directed by the Constitutional Court last week, this would mean that Bukaibenyu, like many Zimbabweans living abroad, will be denied the right to vote which he argues is unfair.

Bukaibenyu argued in the court papers that economic hardships forced him into exile in SA but intends to return to Zimbabwe, his "permanent home" once the situation normalises and he can obtain employment in the country.

He wants electoral laws that prohibit the diaspora vote declared unconstitutional, saying: "I therefore have a vested interest to do my part to ensure that the situation in Zimbabwe normalises as soon as possible, and this includes participation in elections and civic duties in Zimbabwe,"

According to ZLHR, some sections of the Electoral Act state that if a person has ceased to reside in the constituency in which their name appears for more than 12 months, that person is not entitled to have his name retained on the roll.

Although the Zim government has not openly said they will disregard the African Court's ruling, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa is on record as saying the Diaspora vote will not be allowed.

During his visit to London in March, Chinamasa told Zimbabweans that ZANU PF would not allow the Diaspora vote to happen because his party did not have 'access' to citizens abroad. He once again blamed the targeted restrictive measures that have mostly been eased against key members of the party. 

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Source - SW Radio Africa