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Visiting Zimbabweans Urged to Register For Crucial Polls

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Civil society organizations, political parties and even ordinary Zimbabweans have urged their fellow citizens in the Diaspora who are home during this festive season to register to vote.

They are also calling on those who are already registered to visit the Registrar-General’s offices and confirm that their names are still on the voters’ rolls.

“Your vote is your power.” This is the message from civil society organizations and political parties, directed to Zimbabweans in the Diaspora who are home for the Christmas and the New Year holidays.

During the views-gathering stage of the constitution-drafting process currently being finalized, Zimbabweans in the Diaspora expressed overwhelming support for the right to vote while abroad.

Unfortunately for them, neither the old constitution nor the current draft of the new constitution allows Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to vote, unless they return to Zimbabwe on Election Day.

Nonetheless, Zimbabweans overseas who are home for the festive season are being urged to register to vote before they leave again.

Diliza Mangoye Dlamini is a Zimbabwean national who has lived in South Africa for years. Mangoye says people should stop complaining in taxis or beer halls about the lack of an absentee voting system, and take concrete steps to ensure they vote next year.

Dlamini said: “For those who are outside the country, if you have made it to zimbabwe, the best thing you could do is to take your identification document and proof of residency for where you stay- whether it’s a village, whether it’s in the township or wherever- to the nearest registrar office and register to vote.”

The Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has also intensified its efforts to encourage Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to take part in the coming referendum and elections.

Samuel Mavhunga, the party’s Organizing Secretary in South Africa, says the MDC-T have distributed hundreds of leaflets urging people to take advantage of their festive season visit to Zimbabwe and register to vote.

Mavhunga said the coming referendum and national elections give a golden opportunity to Zimbabweans, especially the youth, most of whom left the country in search of greener pastures.

“The coming vote as MDC," said Mavhunga, “is a vote that we really want not to lose it. So we want everyone to participate, so actually we want to have as many people as they are going to Zimbabwe, to take that opportunity and check, are they in the voters’ roll.”

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has also launched an election campaign targeting Zimbabweans in countries that belong to the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Besides talking to ordinary Zimbabweans about the need to register to vote, the organization also lobbies authorities in those countries to relax immigration laws for Zimbabweans when the time comes for them to go back to Zimbabwe to vote.
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Mfundo Mlilo, a board member of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, says it would be unfair to deny the participation of millions of Zimbabweans currently working in other countries.

Mlilo said: “The Diaspora carries a very big vote, and as organizations we are concerned mostly about Diasporans in the SADC region because they have a better opportunity to come back home and vote.

"So we are encouraging Diasporans to come and ensure that their voice is heard, and we know that if their voice is heard, that will increase, our voters that are out there and remember it will be difficult to steal an election where there is overwhelming support and voter turnout.”

Busani Bhalagwe, ZAPU spokesperson in South Africa, says voting is the surest way Zimbabweans can make a difference in their home country.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “there is no place like home. And as far as our Zimbabwean situation is concerned, no one will solve that problem except ourselves as Zimbabweans, so we should stand up and be counted. We should stand up, register to vote and change the situation. We cannot cry. What we need to do is to take action right now. That’s when we will see the difference.”

The Government of National Unity has announced an intensive three-month voter registration period starting from January 2013.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai recently hinted that the referendum on the new constitution might be held as early as the end of January or early February 2013.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe has suggested that national elections must be held in March 2013.

However, civil society organizations say, whenever the referendum and the elections will be held, they want to ensure that all legible voters are ready to exercise their right to vote.