Committee to handle political violence cases

HARARE - Independent commissions and the police have set up a special committee to facilitate the swift handling of political violence cases ahead of the looming 2018 elections.

The committee comprises the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

During an interview with the media, Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said: “Zec has gone on record to condemn all forms of violence. We have also created dispute mechanisms to take care of that.”

“Political parties have a code of conduct which prevents them from electoral violence. They have agreed that they will enforce their own code of conduct,” she said.

“The judiciary system has set up fast track courts that deal with politically-motivated violence and we also need the police to investigate and send dockets to the courts on time.

“In fact, there are now special prosecutors and magistrates have been appointed to specially deal with such cases.”

Chigumba further revealed that the new mechanisms will help victims of political violence report freely.

“What we need to do is to disseminate information or people to report, because nothing can be done if a report is not made. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is also playing a key role,” she said.

ZHRC deputy chairperson Ellen Sithole also underscored the willingness of her commission to investigate cases of violence and deploy teams in communities.

“The ZHRC also has an investigative mandate. The Commission can investigate the conduct of any authority or person, where it is alleged that any of the human rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration of Human Rights (Chapter 4 of the Constitution) has been violated by that authority or person”, she said, adding “such efforts will go a long way to address political violence which has remained a permanent feature during elections”.

Heal Zimbabwe Trust said it viewed the development as a positive step towards minimising politically motivated violence. It however, said “it is imperative to note such arrangements must be followed by the full implementation of constitutional provisions such as Section 210 that protect citizens against abuse by members of the security services”.

“This section provides for an independent complaints mechanism with a responsibility to receive and investigate complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct.

“Also of paramount importance is the fact that independent commissions must decentralise their activities to ward and village level so that their services can be accessed by local communities....Heal Zimbabwe implores independent commissions to continue working hand in glove with civic organisations involved in monitoring, detecting and reporting timeously to cases of human rights violations.”

Meanwhile, Erasmas Makodza has been appointed the 2018 harmonised elections commander to address election-related violence and intimidation before, during and after the upcoming polls.

The development comes in the wake of continued calls by ERC, urging implementation of Section 133 of the Electoral Act to deter politically motivated violence.

In a report titled ‘From Mhondoro – Mubaira (by-election) to 2018 General Elections: Tracking Improvements to the Electoral Cycle’, the ERC made the case for implementation of Section 133H and J and has been consistent since then.

To this end, ERC wrote to the four institutions mandated under Section 133H and J of the Electoral Act, imploring upon them to execute their mandate during by-elections. The ZRP, ZHRC and the JSC responded to this call and set up shop in the Mwenezi East by-election in April 2017.

“Following the by-election, ERC wrote to the institutions stating their observations of implementation of Section 133 in Mwenezi East. ERC is therefore particularly pleased with the early implementation before proclamation.”

Previous elections in Zimbabwe were marred by violence, intimidation and misinformation which resulted in disputed outcomes. This was exacerbated by implementation of Section 133H and J of the Electoral Act which was erratic, if at all, since the advent of the new Constitution in May 2013.

By-elections that were held after the 2013 General Elections were characterised by violence and intimidation especially in rural areas. ERC therefore urges the police command to ensure impartiality, timeous investigation of reported cases, preventative measures and submission of periodic reports to the public.

“ERC also applauds the setting up of special courts across the country by the JSC in consultation with the police. It is the ERC's considered view that full implementation of Section 133H and J of the Electoral Act will go a long way towards establishing sustainable mechanisms for eliminating politically motivated violence across the electoral cycle,” said the organisation.

Comments (1)

THAT IS THE BEGINNING OF CORRUPT STRUCTURES. WE HAVE SEEN POLICE CLEARLY MANAGING TO CONTROL LARGE CROWDS CLOSE TO 1 Million WHEN POLITICIANS KEEP HANDS OFF>. Why a special separate team. Police should just make sure they enforce the law for all political parties (both actually bcoz only 2 ) and no one will do vilolence.

Cde Khumalo - 30 April 2018

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