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Zimbabwe diaspora in UK demand voting rights

28 Apr 2017 at 14:38hrs | Views
Birmingham: The emergence of Zimbabwe's civil society movements in politics since #thisflag movement has become both fascinating and challenging. Fascinating in that the demonstrations does not seem to be merely a passing consciousness, but instead, it is on the rise as a network of political expression and mobilisation. The police brutality that has left many people maimed is the biggest challenge.

There is an increase in intensities of this conventional political participation by Zimbabweans, exemplified by the spread of the Take2Zimbabwe movement to Birmingham, UK. The protesters were demanding external voting rights (diaspora vote from their host nation), electoral reforms, and democracy.

Each protester had an opportunity to send a personal message to Zanu-PF whilst being streamed live on Facebook. They also asked the public to sign their petition.

Members of civic associations, Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZHRO), Restoration Of Human Rights (ROHR), Zimbabwe Citizens Initiative (ZCI) and political parties that included Build Zimbabwe Alliance (BZA) and ZAPU put their ideological differences aside to unite in a demonstration against vote rigging and the ongoing crisis

of democracy in Zimbabwe.

The protesters replicated the 2011 Chilean student protests by presenting themselves as zombies. The zombies represented the ghost voters that have been on Zimbabwe's electoral register for decades. Most of the ghost voters are resurrected by Zanu-PF on the polling day, some are double registered and others may be foreigners who are

ineligible to vote.

The lively road show brought diverse individuals and organisations who nonetheless share a distinctive collective Zimbabwean identity to interact around conflictual issues that include vote rigging, intimidation, and violence that is affecting their country.

Speaking at the event, ZHRO's marketing director Mable Kayiya who devised the Zombie theme as well as the Take2Zimbabwe concept explained "The concept of #Take2Zimbabwe was birthed at the realization that Zimbabwe moved one form of colonization to another. Colonization under the Mugabe regime is a betrayal to the nation whom today 37 years later are oppressed, maimed and killed by the very people they trusted to deliver the promise of independence to."

"The Zimbabwe government does not only stop at violating our human rights as living beings, they violate those of the dead too to ensure they get a vote by any means necessary," said Kayiya.

These public addresses, the distribution of leaflets, the very act of dancing to Michael Jackson's thriller on the streets of Birmingham to signify the ghost voters, carrying their banners and placards constituted as many communicative presentations which they were trying to directly engage with the targets of their messages in a face to face interaction through the media.

Drummer and singer Rashiwe Bayisayi said "No Zombie President, No more Zombie voters in Zimbabwe, we need the

Diasopora vote now, please"

Hillary Chikomba, ZHRO's press photographer commented from behind the lens "The Birmingham Zombie Thriller protest and the #take2 Zimbabwe in Birmingham was a great success, a substantial number of people stopped and listened to our protest, a majority of them signed our petition". "We photo captured the event and images are on our /flickr/web page. We hope to have an event with greater impact on the next Manchester Thriller protest, this will bring awareness to the British people and the World."

The Zanu-PF's authoritarian system prevents the Zimbabwean citizens from expressing anything that is contradictory to their undemocratic ways. As a result people are left out of political participation.

This has resulted in anger amongst the country's younger generation and these rebellious youths have resorted to drastic means to have their voices heard. This however has dire consequences in Zimbabwe where the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) would be unleashed upon the demonstrators. The active involvement of Zimbabwean diaspora, which has been increasing over the past few months, is therefore a welcome response.

Demonstrations will also be taking place in regions across the UK with the next roadshow scheduled for Manchester on the 13 th of May 2017 and more are planned for other UK regions later in the year. Zimbabwean community groups and individual diasporas living in the UK are urged to attend and fight for their diaspora vote. These grand gestures of protest movements will be spread like wildfire through WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and other media.

ROHR Zimbabwe's midlands branch will be holding a fundraising event on the 6th of May 2017. The venue of the event is Hind Youth Centre, Nottingham, NG7 2LX. The proceeds will be channelled towards various projects in Zimbabwe.

The inclusion of Zimbabwean citizens living abroad, by enacting external voting rights, should be a crucial element in the democratisation process and of nation building. Conventional estimations put the number of Zimbabweans living abroad at over 4 million, spread out mainly in South Africa( with an estimated 2-3 million living in that country alone), Botswana, United Kingdom, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Zimbabwe diaspora communities should be allowed to participate in the political process. The fact that they have been exposed to many different forms of government systems with a significant share of these numbers living in western countries with established democracies is a value.

Meanwhile the pressure group Zimbabwe Yadzoka has raised concerns over the biometric registering information that is being disseminated to the rural communities.

Source - Kingstone Jambawo
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