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Zimbabwe govt ill-treating its diaspora citizens

06 Feb 2023 at 04:54hrs | Views
RECENT legislative developments in Zimbabwe portray the government as being only interested in its diaspora-based citizens when it wants them to contribute to the country's economic development and monitoring them for perceived unpatriotic activities while in foreign land, but not enabling them to enjoy their rights as the country's citizens.

Two legislative amendment Bills have been brought before Parliament. One Bill completely ignores the rights of citizens living abroad not working for government, while the other wants to punish the same citizens for unpatriotic behaviour.

Despite promises by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that he would do his best to ensure that diasporans would vote in 2023, the Electoral Amendment Bill does not come with sections to allow the Zimbabweans based abroad to vote.

It is nearly five years since Mnangagwa made that promise. One would have thought that with the widely publicised praise for diaspora-based citizens by the President, who has described diaspora-based citizens as "equal to, and just as important and as deserving" as citizens based in Zimbabwe, the Bill would have accommodated citizens based in the diaspora.

While the Electoral Amendment Bill turns a blind eye to the diaspora's voting rights, a proposed edition to the Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill (The Patriotic Bill) states that any citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe who, within or outside Zimbabwe, actively participates in any meeting in which he knows or reasonably believes the object of the meeting involves the consideration of or planning armed intervention, to subvert or overthrow government or implement sanctions or trade boycott against Zimbabwe will be found guilty of damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Initiative's concern is that the law must be applied equally to all citizens, whether they are resident in Zimbabwe or not.

If, in the course of drafting the Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill, government realised that there are Zimbabweans living abroad, they should equally have remembered that there are over five millions living abroad during the drafting of the Electoral Amendment Bill.

Legislation around voting should similarly treat citizens equally whether they are based in Zimbabwe or outside the country.

The diaspora's contribution to cash inflows has been widely acknowledged.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe's 2023 Monetary Statement states how economic activity remains robust supported by strong foreign currency receipts, including diaspora remittances.

A Diaspora Desk has been set up at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to facilitate investments into the country from Zimbabwean citizens in the diaspora, and a Diaspora Bond targeting citizens living abroad has been initiated.

It is worrisome why government, through the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry, only remembers its cash cow, the diaspora community, when crafting legislation to punish them for possible offences, while ignoring them when it crafts legislation that gives them the right to vote.

The Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Initiative is appealing to other government ministries such as the Finance portfolio, which realises the importance of diaspora remittances and the Labour and Social Welfare portfolio — whose work is supported by citizens living in the diaspora in times of need — to intervene to ensure the diaspora vote is included in the proposed legislative changes.

Source - Newsday Zimbabwe
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