Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) is concerned that even as untoward behaviour is condemned with every by-election that has been conducted since 2013 it seems no one is moved and they continue to perpetrate violence with impunity. The situation in Bikita West is cause for concern as the rights of the electorate are being flagrantly violated. The constituency has reported threat to life, physical violence, partisan food distribution, vote buying, deployment of soldiers, unwarranted voter assistance and intimidation by traditional leaders.
There are disturbing reports where the right to personal security of a candidate has been violated. The National Constitutional Assembly candidate, Maddock Chivasa and his election agent, Thomas Mudzamiri, were assaulted and sustained injuries. Perpetrators are alleged to be Zanu PF supporters who were bussed in from Marondera.
The threats have also cascaded to the Bikita West electorate as one Zanu PF supporter, Philip Dhliwayo is alleged to have announced that as of today (18 January) soldiers will be deployed in the constituency. These tactics of intimidation have left most people fearing for their lives. The threat of soldiers being deployed is being repeated after Minister Josiah Hungwe made the same threats sometime towards the end of 2016. The utterances by Provincial Affairs Minister Shuvai Mahofa that the electorate of Bikita West has to vote wisely all point to the rapid increase in hate speech, which is a trigger for physical violence.
Villagers from Mushanduri in ward 9 have reported to ZPP that they continue to experience intimidation as traditional leaders threaten to evict known opposition party supporters if Zanu PF loses the upcoming by-election slated for 21 January.
ZPP recognises the need for electoral reforms and draws attention to zero tolerance to political violence. A peaceful environment is pre-requisite for the conduct of all elections including by-elections.
ZPP believes it is the responsibility of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to address deficits in the environment and duly execute its responsibilities and bring to book parties that are perpetrating pre-election violence.
ZPP notes with concern how the government has failed to rein in its own who have issued threats of violence. Unless perpetrators are brought to book to account for their actions the trend is likely to persist. If environments in areas where by elections are due continue to be violent Zimbabweans need to be worried about what to expect in the 2018 elections.
ZPP is a Non Governmental Organisation that was founded in 2000 by a group of faith based and human rights NGOs working and interested in human rights and peace-building initiatives. ZPP has become a vehicle for civic interventions in times of political crises. In particular, ZPP seeks to monitor and document incidents of human rights violations and breaches of peace.