Paul Soti, a Durban advocacy officer for the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum, said that for the first time in decades, the forum and other civil society organisations were able to send a delegation of observers to Zimbabwe for today’s elections.
“There was no way we could have sent observation teams during the Mugabe regime. This election certainly signals a new dawn for Zimbabwe, a new dispensation where people can freely express their political opinions and affiliation,” he said.
Soti, a theology and law graduate, said he was nearly killed in an attack for his political and social activism in 2012.
“Even before the votes are cast and the results are announced, this election has already been a victory for the people of Zimbabwe. It is a contest of policies and manifestos, not who has the political power to block the opposition’s campaign. (MDC leader Nelson) Chamisa has held so many rallies, which is unheard of in Zimbabwe. This new dispensation seems to have come with tolerance and understanding of democracy,” said Soti.
The forum set up a mock polling station in 2008 as a symbolic way for those living in Durban to feel part of the elections in their home country. Soti said they were likely to do this again today.
Social justice activist Kudzai Taurona, who lives in Pietermaritzburg, said while there were no statistics on how many Zimbabweans were in the diaspora, some said there were more than 3 million in South Africa alone.
“That is a large number of the electorate that is disenfranchised because the government claims it does not have the resources for us to vote from outside the country.
“Any new government should really consider the diaspora vote,” said Taurona.
Stallone Fore said jobs were given based on political affiliation. That is what had led the mechanic to Durban five years ago. “I would not have even spoken to you like this then,” he said.