Zec must probe reports of intimidation, violence

HARARE - Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) should take seriously concerns of intimidation and violence as reported by civic organisations monitoring the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), Election Resource Centre (ERC), Heal Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) are concerned by the early signs of political violence in the country ahead of the 2018 elections.

The organisations are right in calling for Zec to immediately take measures, which are within its mandate, to compel all political parties to sign the Code of Conduct of Political Parties and submit themselves to consequences prescribed at law in the event of violation of the Code either by political parties, aspiring candidates or their supporters.

They argue that Zec must be prepared, dependent on the severity of the incidents of the human right violations, to suspend all electoral processes limited to the areas affected, until free participation of citizens in the voter registration exercise has been guaranteed in line with Section 155 of the Constitution.

The civic rights organisations believe any proceeding with electoral processes in a violent or intimidatory environment subjects the reputation of our electoral processes to disrepute at both the constitutional and international levels.

Previous elections in Zimbabwe have been, more often than not, violent, and it is worrying to witness incidences that point to the resurgence of intolerance and political violence.

This follows the eruption of violence between supporters of the main opposition MDC and the ruling party Zanu PF in Chitungwiza recently.

Political parties must also restate their commitment to zero tolerance towards political violence and actively discourage the barbaric acts.

ZimRights have hinted that the manifestation of violence negatively affects the participation of citizens in electoral processes, including the BVR, and ultimately affect the freeness of the elections.

The human rights organisation denounced the bloody clashes, which happened while the MDC supporters were carrying out a door-to-door voter registration mobilisation campaign, and calls for perpetrators to be arrested and tried, regardless of their political affiliation.

The ERC, through its Call Centre and other dialogue and monitoring platforms, has received feedback that suggests a sharp increase of intimidation and violence during the ongoing voter registration exercise.

Violence is a gross infringement on the Constitution and constitutes a blatant criminal act which should not be tolerated.

Stakeholders such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Zec and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) should play their public role in maintaining the rule of law and entrenching the enjoyment of human rights by everyone regardless of political identity.

The ERC called upon State institutions among other institutions to uphold the law and protect human rights if elections in Zimbabwe are to be consistent with Section 155 (1) (a) of the Constitution which insists on the conduct of elections that are peaceful, free and fair.

These acts of intimidation and violence threaten the

right of people to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression and association, under Section 67 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Tolerance of divergent views and opinions is a crucial pillar of democracy.

ERC believes that in addition, these acts are liabilities to international principles on voter registration such as comprehensiveness, inclusivity and credibility.

All political parties must ensure that their members and supporters respect the constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms and political rights.

All peace-loving Zimbabweans should refrain from acts of intimidation and violence.

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