It seems unlikely that Harare will make it possible for Zimbabweans living abroad to cast their vote in elections set for march. So political activists in South Africa have mounted a campaign under the name of the Zimbabwe Transformation Committee. It’s urging Zimbabweans to go home and register so they can cast their ballots. The polls will likely pit supporters of the ruling Zanu-Pf Party against those from The Movement For Democratic Change (MDC.)
Voice of America English to Africa reporter Benedict Nhlapo in Johannesburg says the slow pace of talks between the MDC factions and Zanu PF, mediated by South African president Thabo Mbeki, is slowly diminishing any hopes of a diaspora vote. This is part of the reason why the Zimbabwe Transformation Committee (ZTC) members have launched a massive "Go Home and Vote" campaign.
The group says it has trained dozens of youths who have the responsibility of convincing Zimbabweans in South Africa, to use his or her right to vote.
This campaign follows a similar effort by another group of Zimbabweans, who erected billboards advertising similar voter education messages.
A member of ZTC, Mathula Lusinga, says they believe that the vote of those outside the country is crucial in bringing about change in Zimbabwe. He says, “its basically a ‘get out to vote’ campaign where by we are just distributing pamphlets and fliers encouraging people who are here to remind their relatives back at home to vote and them themselves who are here if they have a chance to go back and vote at home since you can realize that the Diaspora vote for Zimbabweans to vote in South Africa will be almost impossible.”
Asked whether those who've been outside the country for too long will be allowed to register and vote, Lusinga replies many don't have proof that they are living in South Africa as they never used legal exit points when they left their homeland.
Lusinga says these Zimbabweans only need to take their ZIM ID's and queue with others for voter registration.
He acknowledges they're encouraging Zimbabweans to enter the country the same way they left, in case government security agents are deployed to block them at the border.
Meanwhile the Committee has deployed members across South Africa, where they are trying to mobilize their peers while denouncing human rights abuses in their homeland. One ZTC member, Anna Madzingiranwa, says they are demanding the advancement of women in leadership positions in Zimbabwe. This, she argues, hasn't happened since Zanu PF came into power. She says they also want Zimbabwean security agents to stop harassing women and children. “We are advocating and lobbying for women not to participate only but to take a lead, to be heard." she says.
Another member, Sibonisiwe Jubane, shares Anna's view. She says Zimbabwean youngsters in South Africa are duty bound to build a democratic Zimbabwe through their vote. She believes those who want freedom must put aside their fear to achieve this goal.
She says, “People have been instilled with fear already that if they ever try to go and vote in Zimbabwe something might happen to them. So we just trying to encourage them that it's their right to go and vote. They should go in their numbers to vote in Zimbabwe.”
The group received overwhelming support from both Zimbabweans and South Africans.
At its recent official launch, at Johannesburg park station, more than 500 people turned up with encouraging messages wishing them well. Some carried placards reading "We want freedom for women and children."