Tens of thousands of registered Zimbabwean voters living in Zambia are returning home to elect a president, members of parliament and local councillors. Voice of America English to Africa Service’s Danstan Kaunda in Lusaka, Zambia reports also that some four million Zimbabweans are returning home to vote from neighboring nations like Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. Many describe themselves as economic refugees – fleeing a deteriorating economy and over 1000 percent inflation.
In Zambia, many Zimbabweans see the March 29th polls as a chance to exercise their right to vote.
Pianos Chachya has lived in Lusaka since 2002. He says, “[Voting] remains my human right, I need to vote. I should go home and vote. I was there [in Zimbabwe] the last two weeks, where I sew the political parties’ campaigns on television for both ruling party and the opposition parties on the main news hour.”
Currently, there is no legal provision in the Zimbabwean constitution for external balloting.
Zimbabwean Moses Kaseke is in Zambia on a medical visa, “If Mugabe wins, I will find somewhere to go outside Zimbabwe. It is better I go to Mozambique or any other country because the situation in Zimbabwe is bad! If [Mugabe] wins it means another five years of suffering-- no school [education], no transport system. For me, I am diabetic, no medicine in Zimbabwean hospitals. I have to go to Botswana or South Africa or even Zambia here for my medical care.”
Another Zimbabwean, Tendai Zimbeya intends to go home, and is not discouraged by those who say the election will lead to vote rigging and chaos. He urges Zimbabweans in the diaspora to make their voices heard, “We have to help each other [financially] so that we can return home and vote. There is nothing like someone does not want to go and vote—who do you think will vote for you? Because we [Zimbabwean community in Zambia] have to go and vote. There is nothing like not voting. All we need is change in Zimbabwe.”
The military and security services have been the mainstay of Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party’s grip on power since 1980.
For the first time Zimbabweans will vote simultaneously for a new president, parliament and senate and local government. The last two elections (2002 and 2005) won by President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party were marred by administrative chaos and allegation of vote rigging.