Why the Diaspora Cannot Vote

This is a Technical Advisory Note meant to inform stakeholders of the existing position both at law and in practicality. The ERC is available for customised opinions and deliberations on the subject matter so as to improve the existing situation.

Who can vote in Zimbabwe?

The Constitution of Zimbabwe states that citizens who have reached the age of 18 years may vote. However, section (23) of the Electoral Act suggests that for citizens to register to vote they must fulfill the residency requirement for registration.

What is the residency requirement for registration?

The Electoral Act (section 23) requires that citizens must satisfy the residence qualification, which means that an aspiring voter must be resident in that constituency at the date of his or her claim for registration. Citizens in the diaspora do not satisfy this requirement. CJ MALABA: “Under the Zimbabwean electoral system, a voter votes not only as a citizen of this country but also to protect his or her rights and interests as a resident of the constituency in which he or she is registered”

Who can vote from abroad / postal vote

The Electoral Act states that only Zimbabwean citizens who are on duty as a member of a disciplined force or as an electoral officer; or on duty in the service of the Government outside Zimbabwe and spouses may vote from abroad via postal vote. This restriction denies Zimbabwean citizens working abroad the right to vote. Postal voting applies to persons who are ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe and are registered voters on the voters’ roll but are outside the country because their duties require that they be outside Zimbabwe on polling day. This is a class of people deemed not to have made a conscious decision to leave the country but do so on national duty.

Does ZEC have a duty to allow citizens outside Zimbabwe the right to vote?

Registrar General of Elections & Ors v Morgan Tsvangirai 2002 – the court found that electoral authorities are not under a legal duty to provide machinery in foreign countries to record votes of Zimbabwean citizens registered as voters who live there and are unable to attend personally at polling stations in their constituencies.

Source: Election Resource Centre (ERC)

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