The Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Campaign committee today launches its campaign to persuade the Zimbabwe government to make it possible for all Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to cast their vote when elections are held to replace the current inclusive government in the near future.
The committee has issued the following statement which lays out its founding principles and guidelines. An illustrated version of this statement is attached.
ZIMBABWE DIASPORA VOTE CAMPAIGN
The entire Zimbabwe Diaspora community is anxious to know whether the Electoral Amendment Bill that is currently being debated in the Zimbabwean parliament will provide for the Diaspora to vote in the upcoming watershed elections.
By asking our political leaders to consider granting Zimbabweans in the Diaspora their voting rights, we are affirming Zimbabwe’s place among the ranks of progressive nations of the world that accord each and every one of their citizens, regardless of where they are on this planet, the right to participate in the election of their leaders.
The Zimbabwean Diaspora Vote Campaign (ZDVC) document is a blue print that seeks to engage all stakeholders in a conversation about how Diaspora elections should be conducted. While we are cognizant of the challenges that accompany such an exercise, these challenges should not take away citizens’ right to participate in their country’s most important democratic process.
In championing this cause, we believe that:-
• It is the alienable right of every citizen to vote in any democratic election regardless of where they may be located.
• It is the constitutional duty of the Zimbabwe government to provide its citizens with the opportunity to exercise their voting rights, many of whom are exiled due to no fault of their own.
ZDVC –The Processes and Procedures
• Logistics – Zimbabwean embassies, consular missions and trade missions where they exist, should coordinate efforts to register voters and distribute voting materials, including ballots. In the case of the United States, we have identified nine (9) regions (see Appendix A) where both registration and voting will be done.
• Voter Education – The ZDVC will embark on a voter education campaign (social media, television, radio, and print media) to make sure that every Zimbabwean who needs to participate knows where to go and register as well as cast their vote.
• Transparency - The ZDVC will seek the services of independent, non-governmental organizations, Zimbabwe political party-seconded representatives and host country volunteers to conduct voter registration at the selected venues. These volunteers will be trained beforehand on how to identify the required Zimbabwean documents acceptable to register and vote.
• Documentation - The ZDVC proposes that Zimbabwe issued birth certificates, identification cards and passports be acceptable forms of identification for both registration and voting purposes.
• Polling Centers – There will be a polling center in each of the nine (9) US regions. These centers will either be a school or a library. ZDVC will seek approval from the US government through the State Department as well as through the respective state government offices.
• Election Funding – Ideally, the Zimbabwe government should fund this initiative through the usual appropriation process. However, we think that the United Nations has already offered to assist the government to conduct credible elections should it choose to ask for assistance through the established channels.
Other organizations that may be approached for funding of any part of this initiative include the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United States Association for International Migration (USAIM), and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES): Africa.
• Voter Eligibility – Any Zimbabwean national who has attained the age of 18 will be allowed to vote
• Election agent – ZDVC proposes that all political parties which are signatories to the current GNU accord, second equal numbers of election agents as observers to the registration and polling stations. Should any other political parties register to participate in the national elections, they too, will be free to second, at their own cost, their agents to join those referred herein.
• Ballot Papers- These will be delivered to the polling stations from Zimbabwe through the embassies or consulates or the United Nations in a timely fashion before the election date.
• Vote counting – ZDVC proposes that the votes be counted at the polling station and the results posted where the public will be able to see them, in keeping with recent Zimbabwean practice. Volunteers, under the supervision of the volunteer presiding officers, will do the counting.
The volunteers will sign the vote count sheets and transmit the results directly to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission through the United Nations. Methods of transmission to include, but not limited to Telephone, Fax, Email and on a website specially created for this purpose
• Electronic Voting – The ZDVC believes this is not a viable voting alternative.
• Mail in Votes – This method can easily be abused and manipulated and therefore should not be used.
Party Political Campaign
The ZDVC pledges to approach authorities in those countries that have imposed travel restrictions on some members of ZANU-PF to relax those restrictions for a period of six months so that all parties can freely campaign in those countries.
However, the final disposition of these restrictions will remain the prerogative of the imposing countries. Our concern is that all political parties be accorded equal access to Zimbabwean nationals wherever they maybe, for the purposes of political campaigning.
• Millions of displaced Zimbabweans demand the right to choose who should lead their country.
• Genuine ownership of the election results can only be achieved if all citizens have equal access to the ballot.
• An election that includes the Diaspora will be viewed positively by the world community.