Madhuku condemns Bikita violence

HARARE - National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) leader, Lovemore Madhuku, has condemned the gruesome violence that erupted in Bikita West on Tuesday ahead of the constituency’s by-election and slammed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of not taking action over the matter.

The opposition party’s candidate Madock Chivasa and his chief election agent, Thomas Mudzamiri, were bashed by suspected Zanu PF yobs on Tuesday night and had to be hospitalised.

Madhuku expressed shock at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s failure to act against Zanu PF after it allegedly perpetrated the gruesome violence and called on Bikita electorate “not to reward perpetrators of violence”.

“It is shocking to realise that as all this madness happens, Zec has not said or done anything when the nation is expecting to hear from them if they take their work seriously,” he said, adding that the electoral body risks losing credibility.

Chivasa said they reported the attack to Maxwell Mashavave, the constituency elections officer.

But Richard Ngurunga, Zec’s deputy public relations director, yesterday claimed they were not aware of the attack, which has been reported in all independent newspapers, and referred questions to the electoral body’s chief elections officer or its boss, Rita Makarau.

Madhuku also condemned Zanu PF’s resort to violence each time the party feels its hegemony is under serious challenge.

Bikita West is a political hotbed where ugly violence erupted in 2001 ahead of a by-election.

“We cannot say anything other than condemn those who are resorting to violence and we only hope our plea will convert them because it does not help our democracy,” Madhuku said.

“We also call upon the electorate to remain steadfast and not to be intimidated into giving up. We must never reward perpetrators of violence by doing that,” he said.

The University of Zimbabwe law lecturer however, gave thumps up to law enforcement agents for being “positive” in their approach.

Zec — which has said about 18 800 people have registered for the by-election — has previously called for peace in Bikita West.

Recent amendments to the Electoral Act allow Zec to warn election candidates, election agents or parties implicated in acts of political violence and to set up special courts to try such cases.

Election observer groups called for investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators before the violence sets a bad precedent for the 2018 general election.

“ . . . we call all political parties and their supporters campaigning in Bikita West to strongly condemn any form of violence and desist from assaulting and harassing people.

“We urge the police and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate these incidents and bring all perpetrators to book,” Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, Zesn director, said in a statement.

This comes as 57 human rights violations have so far been recorded in the constituency since November 1 by Heal Zimbabwe Trust.

“These include assault, vote buying, partisan distribution of aid, forced attendance to rallies, destruction of campaign material, hate speech, disruption of rallies, and threats issued to voters/candidates,” Heal Zimbabwe executive director, Rashid Mahiya, said.

“An upsurge in cases of human rights violations also  compromise the electoral playing field and casts doubt and uncertainty over the holding of free, fair and peaceful elections in Zimbabwe,” Mahiya said.

Jestina Mukoko’s Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) also condemned and raised concern over the abuse of the electorate’s rights.

“The constituency has reported threat to life, physical violence, partisan food distribution, vote buying, and deployment of soldiers, unwarranted voter assistance and intimidation by traditional leaders,” ZPP said in a statement.

“The utterances by Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa that the electorate of Bikita West has to vote wisely, all point to the rapid increase in hate speech, which is a trigger for physical violence,” it said.

“Villagers from Mushanduri in ward 9 have reported to ZPP that they continue to experience intimidation as traditional leaders threaten to evict known opposition party supporters if Zanu PF loses the upcoming by-election slated for 21 January.”

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