More than four million Zimbabweans are believed to be living in the Diaspora, and as their country prepares to vote this Saturday in general elections, the Diaspora is making it known it also wants to be a part of the political process. But according to Zimbabwe?s electoral laws, anyone who has been outside of the country for more than a year cannot vote.
Dumaphi Mema is president of the Association of Zimbabweans Abroad. From Dallas, Texas, he told VOA Zimbabweans in the Diaspora were forced to flee their country and should not be punished.
?Most Zimbabweans living abroad would like to participate in the electoral process in Zimbabwe. And I think this idea has been tried in the last election cycle. We did get involved in a petition that was signed and there was a court case in Harare where somebody from South Africa was trying to spearhead that the Diaspora should also participate in election in Zimbabwe. At that time we discovered that the constitution does not allow the Diaspora to vote?so as of now for this year?s election on March 29, again the idea has come up. Several Diaspora groups have come together to lobby the international community, especially SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) to try and pressure the government of Zimbabwe to change the constitution to allow the Diaspora to also vote in the election,? he said.
Mema agreed that it might be too late for the Zimbabwe Diaspora to vote in Saturday?s election. But he said they are aiming for future elections.
?For this election cycle, definitely it?s too late. But it is a symbolic action, that?s what we trying to do. In other words, it?s going to take a long time before that can be done, if ever it can be done. At this time we are setting the stage to raise eyebrow, especially for the civic groups in Zimbabwe that we are trying to work with to make this to happen so that in the future, whether it?s going to be five, ten years from today, at least those in the Diaspora should be able to vote without having to travel,? Mema said.
He said the Zimbabwe Diaspora is convinced Saturday?s election will not be free and fair.
?The playing field has never been leveled for all the participants of the election. It also advantages the current president of the ruling party. Most of the people that are in Diaspora left Zimbabwe because they were unhappy either with the political system or the economy. And therefore if we are allowed to vote they will definitely vote Mugabe out of power. And we know that he will never allow that to happen because he will be taking himself out of power, ? he said.
Mema said Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have been playing a major role in the political process through mobilizing financial support for certain candidates.
?We do have people here that are supporting certain candidates like people for the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change), people for Makoni (Simba), and people for the other third candidate. For example, I will take the MDC. We have quite certain structures here for the MDC. And their role has been to mobilize financial to send back to their parties at home so that they can campaign effectively and be able to travel,? Mema said.