Constitutional Court delays Diaspora vote case, as govt remains defiant
By Nomalanga Moyo
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.