Voter education roars into life in Chitungwiza

HARARE - It is a warm Friday afternoon and residents in Chitungwiza are readying themselves for a voter education meeting taking place in Unit L that will spell their voting rights.

Chitungwiza is one of the hot spots for politically-motivated violence during political parties’ campaigns, hence any political gathering has the potential to be explosive.

But this afternoon it is different as communities with varying political party beliefs and from different political parties gather to learn about voting and their right to do so.

They are also here to impress on voting peacefully, hence shunning any form of political violence before and after the much-anticipated harmonised elections set for this year.

There are benefits that can accrue from voting peacefully and these residents are aware that it is their vote that can change and improve the order of life in their community.

They desperately need better roads, clean water and electricity.

The communities wish they had equipped schools and hospitals; and that fees for both are within reach.

Harmonised elections are not easy for most residents as one has to vote for three to four candidates at a single go; Councillor, Member of Parliament /Senator and President.

The aforementioned has to be explained to voters and it is not easy for many voters who are illiterate, hence the voter education campaigns.

One of the well-executed voter education campaigns happened in 1979 as Zimbabweans went to vote in the first democratic election.

The “one man, one vote” campaign was heard far and shaped the elections that ushered Zanu PF into office with a majority.

In ensuing years and with one sided elections in which Zanu PF dominated, there came a time when it seemed voter education was not necessary.

A one party-State loomed on the horizon as citizens became ignorant of their voting rights.

But with the much-anticipated 2013 harmonised elections, government and a number of non-governmental organisations have gone out to meet the people, the communities and educate them about the vote and its processes.

They are also on the ground calling for a peaceful vote.

The Daily News recently attended a voter education meeting coordinated by Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe, (CCDZ) held in Chitungwiza’s Unit L community hall where multitudes of voters participated.

The meeting called on Chitungwiza residents to shun politically-motivated violence and concentrate on exercising their democratic right to vote.

Hundreds of people packed the Chitungwiza hall where Phillip Pasirayi, director of CCDZ ran though the formalities of voting peacefully.

Pasirayi told the Daily News his organisation was going into communities promoting peace, targeting traditional leaders and the youths as Zimbabweans prepare for the elections.

“Youths and traditional leaders are the most vulnerable to politicians’ schemes.

“Because of poverty, youths are used to perpetrate violence and traditional leaders are used to practice segregation to villagers who support a different view,” said Pasirayi.

The CCDZ director said it was encouraging that Chitungwiza residents were becoming aware that violence did not pay.

“We are empowering you, communities to focus more on holding your leaders accountable and scrutinising them,” Pasirayi said.

“Do not be relegated to perpetrators of violence. Your voice is in your vote so you should register to vote,” he said.

Pasirayi said there were still some areas where people who were known activists of political parties are being victimised, and in some cases being turned away from the registration exercises.

Residents attending the meeting said they were ready to vote in peace and in an environment where there is security and respect for their vote.

Fungai Mukotsangera, 38 complained that the days for voter registration were few.

“But if we have to sleep at the centres where the registration is taking place we will because we want to choose our leaders.”

Panganai Kambanje, 41 said the company he was working for shut down and he needs a job.

“I am definitely going to the polls to vote for a leader who will provide jobs for us. And I want to be confident that vote will be respected,” said Kambanje. - Bridget Mananavire

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