SIX political activists have been left with an egg on the face after the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) ruled that the Government had not violated the rights of activists who were accusing it of denying them the right to vote in the 2013 Constitutional referendum.
Through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Gabriel Shumba, Kumbirai Tasuwa Muchemwa, Gilbert Chamunorwa, Diana Zimbudzana and Solomon Sairos Chikohwero, filed a complaint against the Government to the ACHPR in December 2012.
They claimed they were denied the right to vote in the March 2013 Constitutional referendum on the basis that they could not travel to Zimbabwe to vote on polling day.
The suit was based on the contention that Zimbabwe’s laws that require one to vote based on their residency, were discriminatory and violated certain Articles of the ACHPR.
In this case, the six activists wanted the Commission declare that the Government was in violation of Articles 2, 3, 9 and 13 (1) of the African Charter.
They called for the amendment of the Constitution and the Electoral Act so as to guarantee the rights of victims to vote from abroad.
But the commission found no merit in the complaint and ruled in favour of the Government.
On the allegations of violation of Article 2 of the African Charter, which provides for every individual to enjoy the rights and freedoms as contained in the Charter, the Commission held that the victims were not subjected to discriminatory treatment as the victims were not in a similar position with either resident citizens or those in Government service.
Regarding Article 3 that provides for the right to equality before the law, it was held that the victims were not subjected to unequal treatment and had not been denied protection that is accorded to persons as such.
Article 9 provides for the freedom of expression and in respect of the alleged violation.
To this end, the Commission found that the limitations on voting placed by the Government on the basis of residency were a legitimate restriction on the right to freedom of expression.
In the final analysis, the Commission concluded that the right to participate in Government as espoused in article 13 (1) of the Charter did not extend to guaranteeing non-residents the right to vote from abroad.