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Zimbabweans in South Africa Receive Free Ride Home to Vote


A South Africa-based NGO is organizing free transport for Zimbabweans who're eager to return to their homeland to vote in Saturday's presidential elections. The Peace Democracy Project also set up 10 voter education stations last month. From Johannesburg, Benedict Nhlapo has the story.

The Peace Democracy Project (or PDP) says it has received election-related enquiries from more than 10-thousand Zimbabweans. PDP coordinator Bekithemba Jama says they've decided to organise free transport after it received requests from more than 500 eligible voters…

"The main objective," he said, "is to enable any Zimbabwean who is [a registered voter with travel documents] in South Africa but is unable to go to Zimbabwe because of various constraints, but is willing to go and vote. [We want] to make sure that he (or she) goes to Zimbabwe and is able to cast their ballot on March 29th regardless of his or her political affiliation."

He says the free transport program hasn't been without its fare share of difficulties.

"The challenges that we are facing," he says, " is that most of these people do not have travel documents. Either [they have] asylum applications [or no] documents at all, so it becomes difficult for us to transport such people."

The PDP’s 10 voter education stations are manned by 25 volunteers, and will remain open until the 29th. PDP logistics officer Gilbert Moyo says they expect all those with the necessary documents will be assisted. He says they have a system in place to check people's credentials….

He says, "We have told our volunteers that they have to take all the details of all the people who [ask]. They have to write their phone numbers, their ID numbers and the constituencies where they come from. From there were take that data to the office we verify, we check from the voter's role that they are registered. If they are registered then we will arrange for the buses ...to take them home... to vote."

Sithembiso Mdlongwa is one of the project's volunteers stationed at Joubert Park in central Johannesburg.

He says travel arrangements will only be revealed to those who have registered for security reasons.

She adds individuals will be transported to and then dropped off in major cities or towns close to their constituencies, and then picked up at the same spot for the return journey.

Many Zimbabweans in SA, who're still upset with the Harare government for denying them a diaspora vote, have applauded the free transport initiative.

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