By- The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has noted with grave concern gross incidents of political violence and the use of state security agents to suppress and violently disrupt opposition political campaigns.
ZPP is disturbed by the growing incidents and notes with regret the loss of life and about seven citizens who have been seriously injured.
These incidents have a serious bearing on the credibility of not just this year’s by-elections, but on the entire electoral environment.
During the weekend there were various bloody attacks against Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters in the Midlands province.
Citizens Coalition for Change supporters attending their rally in Kwekwe were attacked by ZANU PF activists on Sunday.
The incidents were reported to the police and they are listed under RRB 4878031-4878038. The police report they have arrested 16 suspects and they believe one is still at large.
Machete gangs suspected to be aligned to ZANU PF attacked a rally that was being addressed by Nelson Chamisa, killing two and seriously injuring others who are admitted to hospitals around Kwekwe. Several machetes were recovered in the cars the suspects were using.
The incident, which happened in what is believed to be the home ground of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a day after he addressed a rally that had police protection, paints a dark picture of Zimbabwe’s politics and should be condemned. ZRP should investigate and ensure the law takes its full course.
ZPP notes that it is an irony that police managed to send a considerable amount of equipment and human resources to stop a CCC rally in Gokwe, but failed to send enough manpower to protect the another legally sanctioned CCC event in Kwekwe, which was invaded by the machete gangs.
The Kwekwe incident happened as other CCC activists had to fend off alleged ZANU PF supporters, who petrol bombed a tent set up for a rally in Chitungwiza.
On Saturday, CCC supporters had to run battles with police who wanted to disrupt a legally permitted rally in Gokwe.
On the same day in Epworth, Harare, a meeting organised by Linda Masarira was reportedly disrupted by ZANU PF activists.
It is unfortunate that the environment is not favourable for all other political actors except ZANU PF.
Since the formation of the CCC, ZPP recorded over 30 incidents of political violence with the ruling ZANU PF being the main perpetrator.
Police have also contributed to human rights violations and currently, dozens of CCC supporters are detained for holding a car rally.
Police have also deployed roadblocks, especially in Chitungwiza in a bid to disrupt opposition political activists wishing to attend rallies of their parties.
These incidents have happened just as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has activated the Multiparty Liaison Committee, whose mandate is to ensure political parties adhere to peaceful and lawful campaign methods by their members.
ZPP appeals to ZEC to introduce post multiparty liaison committee briefings as citizens are concerned about their safety during this and subsequent elections.
Section 216 of the Constitution, gives the police the mandate to protect and secure the lives of the people and uphold the Constitution and enforce the law without fear, favour, or prejudice.
We expect the police to fully investigate these incidents from the weekend and any other incidents in the future and bring the perpetrators to book in accordance with the law.
It must be noted that civil and political rights are guaranteed under Section 67 of the Constitution.
In light of that, ZPP makes a strong call for peace and tolerance in the run-up to the by-elections, as this has a bearing on the credibility of the entire election process.
Political leaders have a responsibility to ensure elections become peaceful contestations.
It is up to the leaders of political parties to desist from hate language that fuels violence by their supporters.
Section 133G of the Electoral Act gives political parties and candidates the responsibility to discipline party members.
ZPP is alarmed by the remarks made by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga where he referred to an opposition leader as a ‘little Goliath’ who should be crushed with stone-like lice where even flies will not find anything to eat.
Besides Chiwenga’s language being unacceptable, knowing how such language where people are likened to animals and creatures has led to the outbreak of more violence, we believe this is meant to incite ZANU PF supporters to be violent towards opposition supporters.
We, therefore, call on Vice President Chiwenga on the basis of his position in ZANU PF and the government to do the right thing and retract his statement.
In conclusion, we strongly urge all stakeholders, including political leaders, parties, state security agents, other government departments and the generality of Zimbabweans to ensure the run-up to the March 26 by-elections is peaceful and that alternative views are tolerated