By Daniel Chigundu
Election Resource Centre (ERC) has raised concerns over the increase in cases of intimidation and violence that are occurring at a time when the country is busy with the ongoing biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise.
In a statement, the election watchdog said these acts of violence are uncalled for as they have the effect of preventing people from exercise their rights and also taint the credibility of the electoral processes.
“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.
“In addition, these acts are liabilities to the international principles of voter registration such as comprehensiveness, inclusivity and credibility.
“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,” said the ERC statement.
Just last week, MDC-T activists who were going door to door urging people to register for the 2018 elections were allegedly attacked by suspected Zanu PF supporters in Chitungwiza, resulting in some of them sustaining serious injuries.
A few weeks ago, rural teachers also complained that they are being harassed and intimidated by alleged state security agents and Zanu PF support with regards to the 2018 elections.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Rita Makarau is however on record saying her organisation is not empowered enough to deal with issues of violence, adding that they only refer them to relevant authorities such as the police.
According to ERC, “any proceeding with electoral processes in a violent or intimidatory environment subjects the reputation of our electoral processes in disrepute at both the constitutional and international levels.
“All political parties must ensure that their members and supporters respect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and political rights.
“The ERC also calls upon all peace-loving Zimbabweans to refrain from acts of intimidation and violence,” added the statement.
In light of increase in cases of intimidation and violence, the ERC calls upon;
- State institutions especially the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), Zimbabwe Human Rights Commissions (ZHRC) and Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) 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.
- State institutions including but not limited to the ZEC, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) and the Judicial Services Commission to activate special investigative committees in line with Section 133 J of the Electoral Act. Proactive and reactive action to quell the alleged disturbances is of high priority if the credibility and constitutionality of our elections is to be protected.
- The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (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 Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) must immediately take administrative 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 by law in the event of violation of the