#BVR Diaries: Threats and harassment escalate

As the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise is being rolled out across the country after completion of phase one and the near capping of phase 2 the Zimbabwe Peace Project has noted with concern an escalation in the systematic harassment of citizens and some instances of violence associated with the BVR process. It has been noted that the recording of serial numbers is intensifying across the country. Since the BVR blitz began ZPP has recorded in excess of 50 cases of intimidation across Zimbabwe, specifically related to the taking down of registration slip serial numbers. The number could well be way higher than this considering that it is not every citizen who will complain about such anomalies. Some citizens prefer to just conform and leave it at that. For instance in Umzingwane constituency the intimidation of citizens was noted after the youth interface rally that was held on the 4th of November in Bulawayo. Zanu PF officials were observed in ward 11 of Umzingwane district recording people’s voter registration slip serial numbers at Dula registration centre. Councillor Sithembiso Nyoni is alleged to have told people that through BVR they were going to be followed up on as happened during the days of Gukurahundi. Councillor Nyoni is alleged to be working in cohorts with Nokuthula Sibanda, Gedion Ngwenya, Skhulumeni Ncube, Schelesile Sibanda, Anna Dube, Pharaoh Moyo and Agrippa Mnkandla. ZPP welcomes reports that circulated on November 9 that the long arm of the law had caught its first culprit involved in these undesirable machinations. ZPP hopes that all those subjecting communities to these acts should accordingly be made to account for their actions.

Another disturbing trend was noted in Chivi Central constituency where villagers were being allocated centres to register by the local Zanu PF leadership as opposed to them selecting their own registration centre. A case in point is in Ward 16 Chivi Central where a local Zanu PF official, Jairos Gwenyaya forced people to register at Masunda South school yet the convenient and nearest centre for the villagers would have been Chasiya school. In a related case, Zanu PF chairperson for ward 16 Francis Mhomho also forced some villagers from Chinjiva and Mawarire to register at Nyamakwe community hall yet the convenient place for the people in Mawarire is Dombo school and those from Chinjiva would have preferred Matihwa school. The alleged use of force by the ruling party officials denies citizens the freedom to determine and choose the most convenient registration centre for themselves. Citizens are free to register wherever they want to as the process will allocate them their polling station based on their address.

The intimidation related to voter registration has gone a notch up in the last week as Zanu PF has since November 4 when the Bulawayo youth interface rally was held, on a witch hunt for those suspected to have booed First Lady Grace Mugabe when she addressed the rally. With threats of punishment for the booing suspects no one in communities wants to cross the line when they are given instructions on where to register and to surrender their registration serial numbers.

Violence reared its ugly head on 3 November, in Marondera Central ward 9 at Cherutombo shopping centre where Zanu PF and MDC-T youths fought over the BVR exercise. It is alleged that the fight broke out when a Zanu PF team led by sitting Councillor Mathew Masikati forcefully took down registrants’ serial numbers. A group of MDC-T youths led by Charles Chengwe then made a complaint to the police on the fear instilling tactic of noting down of serial numbers. A fight then broke out between the rival groups outside the BVR tent; however only MDC-T members were arrested and detained at Cherutombo police station.ZPP reiterates its calls for political parties to urge restraint and for the voter registration exercise to be open and free of intimidation or threats.

ZPP is also concerned about tensions that are building up in a lot of communities in the aftermath of the firing of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa from both government and party. Most communities are aware of impending purges and thus living in fear.

ZPP therefore appeals to Zanu PF to immediately adopt strategies that will encourage tolerance, unity and cohesion as these a critical approaches to ensure a peaceful election in 2018.

ZPP is a Non Governmental Organization 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 monitors and documents incidents of human rights violations and breaches of peace.

If you feel that your rights have been violated and in particular during the BVR exercise, ZPP encourages you to get in touch with us on Hotline and WhatsApp numbers +263 774 883 406 and +263 774 883 417 Toll Free: 080 80199

Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project