Poll violence fear grips Zim

HARARE - Fear of violence hangs over Zimbabwe as the country heads to polls next year.

In the election, President Robert Mugabe is likely to face his former deputy Joice Mujuru and his long-time nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai, among several other opposition figures.

But in a country with the traumatic legacy of the Mugabe regime’s brutality and the kind of violent turmoil that marred a vote in 2008 that saw 200 supporters of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) allegedly killed by Zanu PF supporters, the concerns of many voters were encapsulated by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), which said the trend of the past years has shown that the state of human rights deteriorates significantly towards elections.

“As the new season of electoral campaigns will likely be coming soon, reaching high gear, there shall be need for all stakeholders to exercise vigilance and responsibility to avert the horrors of the past polls,” ZimRights said in a statement.

“Learning from 2016, all stakeholders need to look out to curtail malpractices such as abductions of pro-democracy activists, unfair arrests, police brutality on peaceful protestors, and authorities’ general intolerance to criticism of government policies as well as its performance,” ZimRights said in a statement.

2017 is a crucial year for human rights defenders to advocate for both State and non-State actors to “respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights in Zimbabwe,” the rights group said.

“Citizens must keep their focus on safeguarding each other’s rights from being abused by speaking out on behalf of each other’s rights.

“ZimRights duly reminds the government of Zimbabwe of its constitutional obligations to ensure that the sad episodes of 2016 in which human rights violations escalated are not wantonly repeated and are quickly curtailed in 2017.”

ZimRights added that Mugabe must ensure that all laws and practices are aligned with the Constitution well before the end of 2017, including electoral laws.

“The government has also started the year with a condemnable urban clean-up campaign of victimisation targeting vendors whom the authorities want to move out the streets purportedly for causing typhoid.”

“The clean-up campaign is similar to the infamous Operation Murambatsvina carried out in June 2005, which directly affected 700 000 people, attracting the unreserved condemnation of the United Nations.”

“ZimRights maintains that destroying the livelihoods of the poor people can never be a just solution to the national crisis, but rather growing the economy, upgrading service delivery and democratising the national politics in order to provide opportunities and social security for all,” the rights group said.

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