Harare - As one Zimbabwean editor put it: "This does not look good people."
Zimbabwe's three million or so diasporans almost certainly won't be allowed to vote in the 2018 elections unless they come home twice - once to register, once again to vote, according to reports on Wednesday.
That's despite a provision in the new constitution guaranteeing all Zimbabwean citizens the right to vote.* Three years after the constitution was adopted at a referendum, the electoral law has still not been aligned with the constitution - which is why, as it stands, Zimbabwean voters based outside the country will have their vote denied.
Analysts say it is unlikely the situation will change.
President Robert Mugabe's government has been none-to-keen to allow Zimbabweans based outside the country to vote, considering that a fair number of them may be supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (or other parties). Zimbabweans' great exodus to South Africa and beyond picked up pace during the post-2000 crisis, though it has been going on for decades. Zimbabwe only has around 6.6 million registered voters at home.
'No funds' for diaspora vote
The state-owned Chronicle newspaper on Wednesday quoted Rita Makarau, the head of the state-aligned Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as saying: "People in the diaspora will be allowed to vote as long as they come back to Zimbabwe on voting day and can vote in their wards." She has previously said that a new biometric voters' roll will have to be set up next year that will require people to register in person.
She said last month that there are "no funds" for a diaspora vote. This slightly altered take on the issue will heighten suspicions that Zanu-PF will do all it can to make sure the diaspora does not get a chance to vote -- despite the Mugabe government's eagerness to harness diaspora remittances to boost the flailing economy.
Confirming that electoral laws had not yet been aligned with the constitution, Makarau said: "Until there is that legal framework governing the diaspora vote, people in the diaspora will not be able to vote where they currently reside."
Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo - one of the ruling party's most active social media users - went further, saying in a tweet that a diaspora vote would actually necessitate "a constitutional amendment".
Wrote editor Tafadzwa Zvikaramba on the Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Campaign Facebook page: "This does not look good people."
* Section 67.3 of the constitution says all Zimbabweans over the age of 18 have the right to vote, making no distinction between those in or outside Zimbabwe. However Minister Moyo is highlighting a section of the constitution that says that the president and vice-presidents are elected by "registered voters throughout Zimbabwe" in a bid to prove that a diaspora vote is not allowed for.