Published On: Wed, Nov 16th, 2016

Diasporans can’t vote in 2018, ZEC confirms

NON-RESIDENT Zimbabweans cannot vote in the 2018 elections unless they return home; first to register and then to cast their ballots, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has confirmed.

 Opposition parties have been staging protests in recent months demanding electoral reforms, including enabling non-resident Zimbabweans to vote from their countries of residency.

However, addressing journalists in Harare on Tuesday ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau said without amendment of the Electoral Act, citizens living outside the country would need to come back home to cast their vote on election day.

“ZEC will only allow people in the diaspora to vote as long as they come back home, first to register in their polling stations designated in their wards and then to vote from their wards on the voting day,” she said.

Section 23 A (2) of the Constitution gives every Zimbabwean the right to vote, including those living abroad. But ZEC says that would only be possible once the Electoral Act is aligned with the country’s supreme law.

“Nothing can stop people in the Diaspora to vote as long as they come back,” said Makarau.

“The Electoral Act must be aligned with the constitution and provide the mechanism through which the diaspora vote will be administered.

“Until that law is put in place or that legal framework is made to available governing the diaspora vote, people in the diaspora will not be able to vote.”

She added that prospective voters would also need to be in the country in order to register  because the new system requires a digital photograph and finger prints.

“Physical presence is mandatory for every Zimbabwean above 18 who wants to be registered and vote,” said Makarau.

The ZEC chairperson said all government staff working outside and at Zimbabwean embassies would have to return home and present their bio-metrics to ZEC for them to be able to vote.

“ZEC is adopting the bio-metric voter registration system which involves electronic registration; so, every voter must be registered electronically.

It is estimated that some four million Zimbabweans live in the diaspora, most of them in South Africa.

Most have no proper documentation in these foreign countries and these would not risk their stay there by coming back home just for a day or two to register to vote.

The Election Resource Centre has since approached Parliament demanding electoral reforms and is preparing a report after nationwide consultations where some of the issues raised included the diaspora vote.

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