BULAWAYO — Zimbabweans based in South Africa and Botswana appear disinterested in the forthcoming elections as traffic through points of entry linking Zimbabwe to these neighbouring countries has remained low, with only a few days to go before the polls.
Zimbabweans based in the Diaspora had hoped to participate in postal voting but their expectations were shattered after the Constitutional Court dismissed an application by a South African-based Zimbabwean to vote through the postal ballot system in this year’s harmonised election.
Section 23(3) and Section 71 of the Electoral Act, which deals with postal voting only allows diplomats and other government officials working outside Zimbabwe to vote through postal ballot while the generality of its nationals in the Diaspora do not enjoy the same privilege.
The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa argued in court papers that the idea of postal ballots was not practical considering that Zimbabweans were spread around the world and some even lived in states where the country does not have embassies.
He also said government’s agents were not allowed to visit countries that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe.
After the courts had dismissed the application, expectations were that Zimbabweans based in neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa and Botswana, would pour into the country to cast their ballots.
A new party called Alliance Khumbula Ekhaya had also emerged after the Constitutional Court ruling to encourage those in the Diaspora to troop back home and vote in the elections.
The International Organisation for Migration estimates that over 1,5 million Zimbabwean migrants live in South Africa.
Estimates also suggest that there could be 40 000 Zimbabwean migrants in Botswana, of whom one-third were resident legally.
A survey by The Financial Gazette showed that not many Zimbabweans in South Africa and Botswana are prepared to spare time and resources to participate in the forthcoming elections.
As a result, Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts have failed to register an increase in the number of immigrants streaming into the country as the election date nears.
Assistant regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge Border Post (southern region), Charles Gwede, said activity at the entry point remained normal, contrary to expectations.
“The border post usually receives 13 000 to 30 000 people a day, with our highest peak days being in December when we can serve above 40 000 people a day. However, in the last two months, the highest number was recorded on the 6th of July where we recorded 23 726 travelers coming in from either side,” said Gwede. “That figure included Zimbabwean students, lecturers and teachers based in South Africa who were coming for the school holidays,” he added.
Nqobile Ncube, the assistant regional immigration manager for the Plumtree border post, said the three checkpoints on the western side had not recorded a significant number of Zimbabwean citizens coming into the country.
Analysts said the forthcoming elections have failed to generate the excitement that would have ignited interest to vote on the part of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora.
The financial crisis still gripping world economies has also affected Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, most of whom can no longer afford to travel back home regularly.
Michael Mdladla, a political analyst, said it was also unhelpful for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to think of taking part in the elections after having failed to participate in voter registration and verification exercises.
“I do not think the majority will (vote) since they were supposed to check for their names in the voters’ roll; those who will come will be people who left the country less than four years ago who voted in the last elections,” he said.
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