MDC-T and Zanu-PF clash over rights of voters abroad

ZANU-PF and the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change are clashing over the diaspora vote amid revelations that President Robert Mugabe's party is vehemently against it.

About three million Zimbabweans are estimated to be in the diaspora after fleeing the economic and political meltdown between 2000 and 2010.

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Mugabe and Zanu-PF allegedly fear that those in the diaspora support Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T faction, hence the veteran politician’s reluctance to allow them to vote in the next elections.

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Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is thought to be vying to succeed Mugabe, said this week his party would not allow those in the diaspora to vote.

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He said restrictive measures imposed by the European Union (EU) and other Western powers on Mugabe and his inner circle should be unconditionally lifted before the Zimbabweans outside the country are allowed to vote.

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Mnangagwa said because of the targeted sanctions, the Zanu-PF leadership was unable to travel to Europe and the US to canvass for support from the diaspora yet Tsvangirai and his leadership were able crisis-cross the globe to campaign. “It would be folly for us to allow them to vote,” he said.

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But in a hard-hitting statement to the media on Friday, Tsvangirai’s party said that all adult Zimbabweans, either at home or in the diaspora, should be allowed to vote in any election if democracy has to assume its “generic” meaning outside the current political transition.

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The MDC-T said Zanu-PF and Mnangagwa should know that sanctions and the diaspora vote were not linked.

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“The inclusive government was set up to give birth to a completely new society, a society that reflects a radical departure from our dark past. The MDC recognises the fundamental right for total franchise for all eligible citizens of Zimbabwe. The right to a vote can never be treated as a privilege, and cannot be bargained for,” it said in statement.

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“Decades of economic and political chaos drove millions of Zimbabweans off their home base. As if to further punish them the former regime quickly disenfranchised them purely on allegations of supporting the party of the future, the MDC. Now that Zimbabwe is being ruled by an inclusive government, there can never be any justification for official discrimination against citizens in the diaspora,” said the MDC-T.

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“For the record, these Zimbabweans living and working abroad gave the country a lifeline during a debilitating hyperinflationary period through a steady flow of remittances in cash, food and fuel. They continue to do so today as the country teeters back to its feet.

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“They should never be denied a voice to determine the future of their country.”

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As negotiators exchange notes with the SADC facilitation team in Cape Town, SA , the MDC-T called for the restoration of the diaspora vote as a natural right.

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“The liberation struggle was anchored on the need for a one person, one-vote principle. To deny a Zimbabwean such a right would amount to a regrettable betrayal of the ideals of that struggle,” it added.

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The MDC-T has strong branches in the UK, US and South Africa, where there are large numbers of Zimbabweans.