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ConCourt Hears Diaspora Vote Challenge

CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba will on Thursday 18 January 2018 preside over the hearing of an application challenging some provisions of the Electoral Act, which prevent Zimbabwean citizens living outside the country from participating in the country’s electoral processes.

Three Zimbabwean citizens namely Gabriel Shumba, Sibonile Mfumisi, who are based in South Africa and Darlington Nyambiya, who is living and working in the United Kingdom, through their lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) filed the application for direct access to the Constitutional Court on 20 October 2017 seeking an order compelling the respondents, who include the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) among other respondents, to facilitate the amendment of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) and put appropriate measures so as to enable Zimbabweans living and working abroad to participate in the country’s electoral processes.

In the application, ZLHR and SALC argued that the residents’ requirements imposed under the Electoral Act are unconstitutional and that the new Constitution, which provides for political rights allows for every citizen of Zimbabwe to participate in political processes, wherever they are.

Apart from the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and ZEC, ZLHR and SALC also listed ZEC Chairperson, Foreign Affairs Minister, Finance and Economic Development Minister and the Attorney-General as respondents.

Under the current legislative framework, Zimbabweans living outside the country are unable to participate in the 2018 general elections due to the restrictive provisions of the Electoral Act and some regulations which place a residence qualification on Zimbabweans, who can be included on the electoral voters roll and can thus participate in electoral processes.

Shumba, Mfumisi and Nyambiya wants part of the Electoral Act, which disenfranchises some Zimbabweans based on their physical positions struck off the country’s statutes.

Through the application, the diasporans argued that it is unfair to deny them voting rights given their contribution to the economy.

The applicants argued that the move by ZEC is discriminatory because the Constitution states that every Zimbabwean citizen irrespective of location, has a right to vote.

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