Zim govt still to respond to Diaspora vote court order
By Alex Bell
There has still been no formal response from the Zimbabwe government to an
order by the continent’s highest court, which ruled that Zimbabweans in the
Diaspora be granted voting rights.
The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights ordered the government
to make provisions allowing Zimbabweans abroad to use the postal voting
system during the March referendum. The decision was made at the end of
February, but the details were only communicated to the parties involved in
the case about a week before the referendum took place.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) had filed the case before the
Commission last December, on behalf of exiled Zimbabweans Gabriel Shumba,
Kumbirai Muchemwa, Gilbert Chamunorwa, Diana Zimbudzana and Solomon
The Commission’s ruling directed the government to provide all eligible
voters, including the five mentioned in the case, the same voting facilities
it affords to 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 members of the Diaspora, including Zimbabweans working for the
government abroad, were not allowed to vote in the March 16th referendum.
And almost a month later, there is still no word from the government about
how they will implement the Commission’s order. The ZLHR confirmed with SW
Radio Africa on Wednesday that there has been no communication from the
The only word from the government has been by way of Justice Minister
Patrick Chinamasa, who has repeated that the Diaspora vote will not be
allowed. He stated last week, on the back of his London ‘re-engagement’
tour, 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.
“Because of sanctions, ZANU PF members have not been able to interface with
those in the Diaspora. To this end, it will be unfair for these people to be
accorded a vote when they have only heard one side of the story-the British
side,” Chinamasa said.
Human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba, who was one of the individuals in the
case, told SW Radio Africa that if Zimbabwe is found to be in contempt of
the African Commission, it would fall to leaders in the African Union (AU)
to take a stand.
“Of course the Commission itself has some mechanisms in place to follow up,
but ultimately it doesn’t have much power of enforcement. It will fall on
the leadership in the AU,” Shumba said.
He added: “But I wouldn’t be surprised if the government is again found to
be in contempt of a regional institution. It is not the first time. They
have been in contempt of the SADC Tribunal. Even in Zimbabwe they have been
in contempt of decisions.”
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