JUSTICE, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has ruled out Diaspora Vote in the forthcoming harmonised elections, saying it is not provided for in the Constitution.
Minister Ziyambi said the country’s constitution does not have a provision for Diaspora Vote.
He said an amendment is required to enable Zimbabweans living in foreign countries to vote.
In a wide ranging interview, the minister said most people have been calling for the inclusion of the Diaspora vote in the Electoral Amendment Act but he cannot do so because the Constitution is the Supreme law of Zimbabwe and any law that would be inconsistent with it is invalid.
He said unlike Constitutional provisions in some countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe’s constitution does not provide for Diaspora vote.
The minister also said in terms of the law, delimitation of wards and constituencies by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is done once every 10 years after a population census. During the census only people in Zimbabwe are counted.
“The question most people ask is – do all citizens have the right to vote? The answer is yes , Section 67 on political rights, states that ‘subject to this constitution every citizen who has reached the age of 18 years has the right to vote in all elections and referendum to which constitution or any other law applies’. But the right to vote is not absolute, it has other conditions, it says subject to this constitution, there are some limitations by other provisions in the constitution.
“If you look at the Constitution it has no provision that is expressed which gives the Diaspora the right to vote but the constitution in Section 92 explains that those that vote must have been registered within Zimbabwe,” said Minister Ziyambi.
“The argument that has been given is that other constitutions which are comparable to ours allow it, which is correct. But in our constitution there is absence of reference to citizens who reside outside the country, it’s not there and you can contrast it with section 92 of the Kenyan constitution which states that ‘Parliament shall enact legislation to provide for the progressive registration of citizens residing outside Kenya and the progressive realisation of their right to vote.'”
Minister Ziyambi said the country’s Constitution only provides for a right to vote which is subject to other provisions, which means the right is conditional.
He said in terms of National Assembly elections, the country is divided into 210 constituencies and there is no Diaspora constituency provided for.
“Section 124 (1) states that Zimbabwe is divided into 210 national assembly constituencies. There is no Diaspora constituency in the Constitution. There are 210 constituencies which are within Zimbabwe and if you go to Section 124(3), it states that the qualification as a voter and for voting at elections for Members of the National Assembly are the same as those prescribed for the election for the President as set out in the 4th Schedule,” said Minister Ziyambi.
“What does this tell us, it tells us that without voters’ roll, wards and constituencies cannot be operationalised. You need a voters’ roll so that you can now demarcate a constituency to say this is a roll for this area and that is why it is left to the Electoral Law to prescribe additional residential requirements.”
Minister Ziyambi said residential requirements are an essential condition for a ward/constituency-based election in order to come up with the most appropriate constituency for a voter.
“The constitution states that a person must register to vote in the most appropriate voters’ roll and to come up with this, the most appropriate voters’ roll for anyone is from the ward that they reside in and then those wards make up a constituency.
So a citizen who resides outside the country does not have a constituency or a ward and therefore is not entitled to vote according to the constitution,” he said.
Turning to the Presidential vote, Minister Ziyambi referred to Section 92 of the Constitution.
“If you go to Section 92 it explains that ‘only registered voters throughout Zimbabwe can elect a President.’ The words throughout Zimbabwe have an effect of excluding citizens who are not resident in Zimbabwe from registering or casting their vote.
If you go further in Section 92 (4) it says that the qualifications as a voter are spelt out in the fourth schedule and it provides that ‘a person who is 18 years old and is a citizens should be registered on the voters’ roll of a constituency’. That’s a condition and registration of voters is therefore to be done on a constituency roll,” said Minister Ziyambi.
He said paragraph 2 (1) in the Fourth schedule, states that the Electoral Law may prescribe additional residential requirement to ensure that voters are registered on the most appropriate voters roll.
“In addition, to voters registering in constituencies around Zimbabwe as required by constitution, the Electoral Law can introduce further residential requirements consistent with section 67 such as ward registration,” he said.