Rights violations rise

HARARE - Cases of intimidation are on the rise in Murewa District within and across political parties with ordinary citizens being victims, Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) has reported.

CCDZ said while there is an increase in political activities in communities particularly by political parties ahead of the 2018 general elections, it is deeply concerned by the rise in cases of political intimidation and human rights violations.

“The degree at which these cases are experienced is higher mostly in rural areas where traditional leaders, political party leaders and youths are the perpetrators.

“Some of the rights violations that are being recorded in Murewa include the partisan distribution of food and intimidation of perceived opposition supporters,” said CCDZ executive director Phillip Pasirayi.

He said CCDZ has developed a monitoring tool called “Citizen Report” which is being administered by the organisation’s community structures to document human rights violations taking place in communities including in Murewa District.

The organisation collects the citizen reports on a quarterly basis, analyses the information captured. The findings are being used by the organisation to lobby responsible authorities such as Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) for redress.

CCDZ recently facilitated dialogue between the European Union (EU) exploratory team and the diverse stakeholders in Murewa on March 22.

The stakeholders who managed to engage the EU include political parties, faith based organisations, civic society representatives, business community, residents associations, traditional leaders and community based organisations.

EU election exploratory mission was in Zimbabwe for a week-long pre-election assessment, which included meeting officials from government, Zec, political parties and civil society.

Pasirayi claimed there is heavy military presence in communities at every level, following a “coup” which replaced former president Robert Mugabe with President Emerson Mnangagwa in November 2017.

“The militarised State and party poses a threat to meaningful citizen participation in governance and electoral processes.

“There is tension and fear in some communities in Murewa District due to the presence of the men and women in uniform.

“Ordinary people in rural areas are afraid of freely expressing their views about politics and elections due to fear of reprisals from the military.

“These fears are not without a basis. In the 2008 election debacle, the military was at the forefront of violence and intimidation of opposition supporters under an operation code-named “Operation Mavhotera Papi” (Operation who did you vote for) during which MDC supporters especially in urban areas were targeted by soldiers.

“The presence of soldiers and State security operatives is one of the key impediments to women and youth meaningful participation in politics and elections,” said Pasirayi.

CCDZ also reported a rise in cases of voter intimidation especially in rural areas on the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process.

“Traditional leaders and Zanu PF youths in Hurungwe, Murewa, Mutare, Wedza, Mutoko and other areas where CCDZ is operating are demanding serial numbers from all registered voters.

“Upon receiving the serial numbers, they are taking them to Zanu PF ward chairpersons who are in turn forwarding the serial numbers to the party at district level.

“We find this to be a flagrant violation of the Constitution which stipulates the freedoms of choice and expression among others as enshrined in Chapter 4.

“Given the violence and intimidation which characterised the past elections, citizens will certainly be forced to either refrain from casting their votes or vote for Zanu PF for fear of retribution,” said the CCDZ director.

He added that there is the politicisation of food aid and agricultural inputs. “Food aid is being distributed on partisan basis and agricultural aid such as maize seed and fertilizers is only given to Zanu PF supporters and traditional leaders aligned to the ruling party.

“For instance in October/November 2017, MDC supporters from Wedza ward 6 were denied agricultural inputs by Zanu PF supporters and were threatened with violence if they did not give allegiance to the ruling party.

“There is selective application of draconian laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) that violate citizens’ civil and political rights such as freedom of association, freedom of expression and assembly.

“Opposition parties and civil society cannot freely associate and convene meetings with their members without the approval of police while Zanu PF is allowed to hold its meetings without police clearance/notification,” said Pasirayi.

He said while the Constitution of Zimbabwe under Section 281(2) stipulates that traditional leaders must not act in a partisan manner, must not further the interests of any political party or case as well as not to violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.

“However, this is not happening on the ground as these traditional leaders are furthering the interests of the ruling party.

“In Murewa, Wedza and Goromonzi, traditional leaders distribute food and agricultural aid in a partisan manner and threaten opposition supporters with violence if they fail to support the ruling party.

“Traditional leaders in these areas in collaboration with Zanu PF officials are misinforming and intimidating residents about the BVR exercise in their communities.

“They are demanding serial numbers on voter registration slips and threatening residents that they will be able to tell whom they voted for in the 2018 elections.”

 

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