Members of Zimbabwe's Diaspora community have cautiously welcomed news that dual citizenship will be part of the country's new constitution, raising hopes that their voting rights will also soon be secure.
A chapter in the new draft constitution, which is believed to be almost ready, stipulates that every Zimbabwean citizen by birth should retain his or her citizenship, even if that person acquires foreign citizenship. This comes as a positive development for the millions of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, many of whom now have citizenship rights in other countries after being forced to flee the crisis back home.
It is also a positive development in terms of the right of members of the Diaspora to vote, a right that has been denied by the Robert Mugabe regime through partisan electoral laws.
But even though dual citizenship may be in the constitution, the Electoral Act would still have to be amended before those in the Diaspora could vote.
MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told SW Radio Africa this week that a new Electoral Bill will be tabled in parliament and legislators from both sides will be able to debate it and recommend changes to the Act. He said his party will push for the amendment, to allow Zimbabweans in the Diaspora the right to vote in the next elections.
"By allowing dual citizenship, what that means is that if you are Zimbabwean by birth and have acquired British citizenship, you will still have the same rights as people who are permanently based in Zimbabwe," Mwonzora said.
Den Moyo from the Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Campaign told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the Electoral Act amendment is the "key" for their hopes to be realised. He welcomed the inclusion of dual citizenship in the new draft constitution as "progressive," and a "step in the right direction."
"There is still a lot that needs to happen though, chief among this is the Electoral Act amendment. We are waiting to see what happens and we are hoping that the support shown by the MDC-T for a Diaspora vote means there will be no resistance to the amendment being passed," Moyo said.
Moyo meanwhile called on members of the Diaspora to gather their paperwork and start preparing to register to vote, saying they will push for a separate Diaspora voters roll to be in place before a poll. He said that in the mean time, citizens abroad can register their details with the Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Campaign, which will then help them secure their voting rights in the future.