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Participation of Zimbabweans in national elections
Hansard, Parliament of Zimbabwe
November 10, 2004

Ms STEVENSON: asked the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to explain why the Zimbabwe Government is not going to amend the Electoral Act to allow citizens residing outside the country to vote when the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections signed by President Mugabe and other Heads of State in Mauritius in August provide for the right of all citizens to participate in their national elections, and Mozambican citizens will be allowed to vote at their Harare Embassy.

MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFIARS (Mr CHINAMASA): Madam Speaker, our electoral system is constituency based and as such gives the right to vote to a Zimbabwean citizen who is resident in a particular constituency. As Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, I have an obligation to uphold the Constitution and the law. For the rest, I would respectfully ask Hon Stevenson to refer to the answer I gave to the question posed by Hon member Mr Chirowamhangu last week. Suffice to say that the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections are not a law. They are not a Protocol. They are not enforceable. They merely provide principles and guidelines. They recognise that SADC countries are at different stages of development or evolution in the sphere of democratic traditions, institutions and systems and that some countries such as Angola and the DRC have not yet held any elections. Swaziland does not have any Constitution.

All countries in the region are grappling within their unique circumstances and history to forge a democratic path to a better tomorrow. The comparisons that you have drawn between Mozambique and Zimbabwe are clearly not appropriate. Mozambique is not further under sanctions. It is not under siege. The Mozambican political and business leadership, whether belonging to the ruling and opposition parties, are not under any travel ban from any country to which their people have migrated. In any event, unlike the Mozambican authorities, we have, in the past been subjected to unjustified and unwarranted criticism from MDC against postal voting. MDC spoke critically against allowing soldiers who wee in the DRC in 1999 to vote in the 2000 and 2002 Elections. MDC needs to be reminded that it made the most noise over allowing soldiers to vote in the 2000 and 20002 Presidential elections. The opposition must learn to take a principled position and not to contradict itself frequently. We know that opportunism is their forte but it should not be done to mislead Zimbabwean people both here and abroad.

Madam Speaker, let me say that the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are fully patriotic towards their country. They know they are being fed on a diet of false and malicious propaganda by MDC and its international allies. They are fully aware that Zimbabwean authorities and business leaders suffer from a travel ban which prevents them from visiting them and interacting with them freely. We have of course not forgotten that when the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Gono travelled to the UK MDC lobbied the British Government to cancel his visa so as to prevent Zimbabweans in the Diaspora from being addressed by Zimbabwean authorities. Similar illegal actions were perpetrated by the MDC against the Governor of the Reserve Bank when he travelled to the United States and South Africa. My advice to the Hon Ms Stevenson is that when she speaks on these matters, she must not speak with a forked tongue.

MRS STEVENSON: Is the Minister implying that politicians from America, Britain, Botswana or Mozambique come to Zimbabwe and campaign to their citizens before an election? If so, could he give some examples of that, because I do not see that happening?

MR CHINAMASA: The Hon member is obviously not aware of the leadership from Mozambique which has been holding rallies in this country. They estimate the Mozambican population to have been around 50 000. They were only able to register about 5 000 but they have been here holding rallies country-wide in order to canvas for support.

Mr COLTART: My first supplementary question is that would the Hon Minister advise this House whether there are any travel bans of any nature which prevent his Government from travelling within the SADC area and that is preventing them from campaigning?

Secondly, because of that, my understanding of the situation is that there are no bans in place against members of the Government and given that position why is it that the Government’s policy is to deny Zimbabweans resident in the SADC an opportunity to vote in the forthcoming election?

MR CHINAMASA: If we introduce a rule it must be done in a non discriminatory manner. You cannot provide one rule for those who are in Zambia and a different rule for Zimbabweans who are in Australia. That is discriminatory and unacceptable.

Mr COLTART: This august House recently passed an amendment to the Citizenship Act that specifically related to certain countries in SADC. That was discriminatory. If we can grant particular rights to our citizens who come from Zambia or Malawi, why cannot the same privilege be extended in reverse to Zimbabweans who live in the SADC?

MR CHINAMASA: The example given is not appropriate. On the example he referred to, we were giving and extending citizenship to people who have been here for years.

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