'Let's continue with the peace'

HARARE - The new political dispensation ushered in November last year has opened up spaces that were usually no go areas for Non-Governmental Organisations (Ngos) and civil society organisations, a top human rights executive has said.

Zimbabwe Human Rights (Zim-Rights) director Okay Machisa said they have been throughout the country peacefully lobbying communities to register to vote unlike in the past when they were attacked, harassed or even abducted.

“I thank the system for creating such an environment although we still have some traditional leaders who are living in the Robert Mugabe era of patronage politics.
These leaders should not be married to any political party at all.

“We are saying to these leaders, ‘let’s us move together in this new dispensation that is sweeping across the country’.”

Machisa said as political campaigns heat up in the country, there is need for political party leaders to desist from hate language. “Hate speech is next to beating, arson or even abduction and it has to be avoided at all costs.

“The more politicians refrain from using hate speech, the more they will win hearts, hence more voters. Hate speech will chase away potential voters.

“We have to be mature as Zimbabweans and not injure one another because we support different political parties,” said the ZimRights director.

He urged the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to do its job and set examples to all those who want to promote political violence. “Let us have zero tolerance to politically-motivated violence... The president and his deputies have been calling for a violent free election, so the police have their blessings to arrest violators.”

Machisa said this election is different from the rest before because of the presence of election observers from all over the world.

“As Ngos and civil society we will be honest with the observers and we will help them with the check list and point to them where they have to put their ears and eyes.

“As locals we know the terrain, hence we will guide them on where they can put more attention because at the end of it all they will be putting together reports and those reports have to be informed.”

The ZimRights director said it was sad that the Con-Court threw out the Diaspora vote plea. “We will still stand guided by the Con-Court on why it delivered such an unusual judgment because Zimbabweans wherever they are, even in the moon should have the right to vote. The judgment is disturbing,” said Machisa.

He was, however, satisfied with the work that NGOs and civil society put in, in as far as lobbying for the adoption of biometric voter registration (BVR).

“We lobbied and finally got it, now we need to vote using the same system. We are also happy that we have put a big fight so that Zimbabwe Election Commission solely runs the elections.”

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