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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March 2005, 23:17 GMT
Expats unsurprised at vote denial
President Robert Mugabe
Many ex-pats say they will return home if Mr Mugabe leaves office
The news that expat Zimbabweans will not be allowed to vote in the country's 31 March elections came as no surprise to many of those living in the UK.

Its supreme court dismissed a challenge by seven UK-based Zimbabweans wanting the right to vote as having "no merit".

Zimbabwe said the expats' request would have required major changes to its recently amended electoral laws.

Among those now unable to vote is Dennis Tapfuma who said: "It's the sort of behaviour we've come to expect."

'No point'

Mr Tapfuma, a 29-year-old black journalist who now lives in south London, said he left his home city of Harare in 2000 when it became clear the human rights situation in Zimbabwe was going to deteriorate.

He is married to a white Zimbabwean whose family was evicted from its land under President Robert Mugabe's regime.

Every week I read more and more about things that are going wrong in the country. It's very depressing
Allan Conybeare

Mr Tapfuma commended the efforts of the UK-based Diaspora Vote Action Group to secure expats the vote, but fears their energies have been wasted.

He said: "I've become a cynic. There's just no point unless you get rid of the government, there's no point trying to fight it.

"It's pretty obvious the Zim government doesn't want us to vote, because they know what the result would be."

Alan Conybeare
Allan finds the news from home 'depressing'

Mr Tapfuma says many Zimbabweans are disillusioned with politics, concentrating their efforts instead on the daily battle for survival.

He said: "Most of my Zimbabwean friends don't care. They just want to survive. People just want to get on with their lives and their businesses

"My dad is still there and when I speak to him it is the same thing. People want food, not voting."

He said most expats would return if the government changed.

But in the meantime, he thinks expats are the "lucky ones" and should concentrate on aid work to help those struggling with food shortages.

'Disappointed'

Allan Conybeare, 32, and his wife Sally, 29, are white Zimbabweans who left the country to go travelling 10 years ago and, because of the deteriorating political situation, have never returned.

They live in Colchester, Essex, and have a one-year-old son.

Sally's parents are also in the UK, having been evicted from their farm in Zimbabwe.

Mr Conybeare, from Harare, said: "We're obviously disappointed. We'd love to be able to cast our ballots, but to be honest, I didn't have very much hope.

"I don't think the government wants people from overseas to vote because probably 85% or 90% would not be for them."

Child in rural Zimbabwe
Zimbabweans are struggling with food shortages

Mr Conybeare is also worried about the situation faced by his countrymen.

He said: "Every week I read more and more about things that are going wrong in the country. It's very depressing."

But like many Zimbabweans, he fears little will change while Mr Mugabe remains in power.

"It will come to an end eventually but I don't know when. Everyone's kept saying he'll step down in the next year or so but 10 years have gone by and he's still very much there.

"If the government changed and things started to look up we'd be keen to go back. It's our home after all and we do get homesick.

"But we've got to think of our future and that of our young son."




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