Rights commission acts on political violence

HARARE - Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has warned that it would cause the suspension of voting in any constituency where there is violence, starting with next year’s elections, as the rights body moves to sink its teeth into politically-motivated disturbances which have overshadowed previous polls.

Speaking at a gathering to celebrate the ZHRC attainment of “A” status accreditation with the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), the rights body’s chairperson Elasto Mugwadi said the commission would not tolerate a repeat of the bloody violence which happened in the run-up to the 2008 presidential run-off.

“It is my hope that our messages for tolerance and respect for human dignity to political actors prior to, during and after the impending 2018 harmonised elections will see peace and tranquillity prevailing and flourishing in our beautiful country Zimbabwe.

“We will not tolerate diatribes, hate speech and political incitement that disturb the peace of our innocent people.

“We say no to a repeat of the 2008 political upheavals and to this extent we will not hesitate to recommend to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) suspension of the plebiscite in any constituency proven to be riddled with political violence and a gross violation of people’s fundamental rights and freedoms,” Mugwadi told the gathering.

Rights and pro-democracy groups have previously accused Zanu PF of orchestrating violence against its opponent in the run up to elections.

In 2008, Mashonaland East witnessed horrific violence when Zanu PF led by war veterans went on a retribution exercise to punish people suspected to have taken part in that year’s Bhora Musango — which saw opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC beating President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in that year’s polls.

More than 200 MDC supporters were reportedly slain in the violence.

Tsvangirai pulled out from the June run off days before polling citing massive intimidation — leaving Mugabe to contest in a one-man election which was described as sham by the international community.

The late revered liberation struggle icon and Zimbabwe’s first black military commander, Solomon Mujuru, was subsequently accused by Mugabe and other Zanu PF bigwigs of having engineered the president’s defeat by Tsvangirai.

Addressing guests at yesterday’s gathering, Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda said he would assist in ensuring that legislators are educated on political tolerance.

“My role as Speaker is to ensure order in the House. When the politicians leave the House, they are on auto-pilot which I have no control over.

“However, I will try to ensure that there is political tolerance before, during and after elections. However, the commission should also engage the Zec on political tolerance. Also engage the churches whose doctrine is premised on love. They must have an open door policy towards the commission,” Mudenda said.

Turning to the “A” status, Mugwadi said criteria for accreditation into the international human rights body was achieved after Zimbabwe complied with benchmarks set out by the Paris Principles.

The Paris Principles relate to the status and functioning of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Among some of the principles are autonomy from government, independence as guaranteed by the Constitution and adequate powers to investigate alleged cases of human rights violations and maladministration.

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