Elections in Zimbabwe have been characterised by violence which usually occur during the pre, peri and post-election period. Since 1980, when Zimbabwe attained political independence, various degrees of violence has been witnessed and documented.
The 2008 post-election period is a dark period in the history of Zimbabwe. After the then president Robert Mugabe lost the first round of elections to Morgan Tsvangirai in the March 2008 election, a wave of violence against alleged opposition supporters was witnessed in the country, which resulted in over one hundred people losing their lives and over six hundred people being displaced from their homes. However, in November 2017, after a military intervention Robert Mugabe resigned from the presidency and Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as his successor.
The new president promised a new style of government and sought reengagement with Western countries. Indeed, the new president preached peace and promised a violent free election. Western countries saw the upcoming 2018 election as a key measure of the government’s will to uphold human rights and put a free, fair, credible and violent free election as the ticket to re-engagement. Thus, the 2018 Zimbabwean harmonized election on 30 July attracted a lot of attention, locally, regionally and internationally.
The pre-election period and election day were relatively free of violence. However, after the casting of votes, and before election results were announced, opposition party supporters in Harare took to the streets to protest the alleged rigging by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on 1 August 2018. After the anti-riot police realized they ‘could not contain the protesters’, the army was called in to assist, but there was disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force, resulting in the death of at least 6 civilians and a lot more were injured. In the following days the army carried out a crackdown in Harare’s highdensity suburbs that included beatings and harassment of people. In other areas such as Muzarabani, Mutoko and Maramba-Pfungwe, opposition supporters and party polling agents were displaced from their homes after being threatened with torture or death, or both.
ZADHR provided emergency medical and surgical treatment to victims, conducted rigorous in-depth interviews with survivors and offered psychological counseling services. The medical and surgical evidence, gathered from experienced clinicians who have all received training in treating and documenting cases of OVT, strongly corroborates the clients’ allegations of violence and psychological trauma from current and previous political violence.
During the period 1 August 2018 – 5 September 2018, ZADHR attended to 72 cases of politically motivated violence, involving 102 victims. The report gives a summary of the physical and mental findings after the victims were interviewed and examined by trained health professionals. The report concludes by giving recommendations to the government of Zimbabwe and Civic Society Organizations on the way forward to prevent further cases of politically motivated election violence.
Source: Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights