Harare — When Zimbabweans head to the polls at month’s end, a segment of the population will be voting for the first time in over a decade. Our correspondent spoke with some of Zimbabwe’s ‘alien’ voters about what this election means to them.
Among the major highlights of Zimbabwe’s inclusive government was the passing of a new constitution that extended voting rights to so-called aliens: residents of Zimbabwe whose parents are of foreign origin or who are of foreign origin themselves.
Most of the aliens living in Zimbabwe, who are originally from Malawi and Zambia, are excited by the prospect of participating in this high-stakes election. They’ve pointed out that because they came into what was then Rhodesia during the Central African Federation in 1953, they, like other black Zimbabweans, were allowed to vote in 1980. Yet that all changed 2001, when the government passed an act that prohibited dual citizenship and stripped these now aliens of their voting right.
Their coming on board this year is definitely some sweet music to the MDC-T. The party, led by current Prime Minister Tsvangirai, has pushed for dual citizenship and the restoration of aliens voting rights. In fact, the MDC-T will be looking forward to a bumper harvest of votes from this once excluded group whose population is estimated to run into hundreds of thousands.
“Every vote counts”
Pedzisai Joseph Gabriel hopes that his vote will make a big impact. The 42 year old is particularly concerned that he and his peers will be able to secure employment.
“I was born in Zimbabwe, but have been denied the right to vote because my parents come from Malawi. Now that I can vote, I am really excited and I know my vote will definitely deliver a government that cares for its citizens,” he said.
Thirty-six year-old Mugove Simon, originally from Malawi himself, has long been out of employment and was so pressed for money that he could not move out of his father’s two-roomed cottage in the suburb of Mabvuku.
“The principle is that every vote counts and I am very sure that if the previously disenfranchised community of aliens vote, maybe things will go the other way,” he said.
Cecelia Laston resides in the high-density suburb of Tafara, 15 kilometres east of Harare. The 67-year-old mother said she is willing to vote for a party that will prioritize job creation and improve the living conditions of foreigners.