“We need responsive institutions ahead of the 2023 elections”

Community Peace Clubs established by communities working with Heal Zimbabwe in Mazowe and Muzarabani have highlighted the need for responsive institutions ahead of the 2023 plebiscite. This came out during monthly planning meetings by peace clubs that operate in Mazowe and Muzarabani on 19 June 2021.

Peace club members highlighted that in previous violent elections that were characterised by violence, institutions such as the police were less responsive to cases of politically motivated violence. In most cases, police would arrest victims of violence who would have made reports.” In 2008, here in Muzarabani, the police turned a blind eye to cases of political violence. We mobilized community members who had been affected by violence to report their cases to the police but were in turn arrested”, said one participant. Participants also highlighted that they have already started to witness an escalation of cases of human rights violations ahead of the 2023 elections.” The ruling party is currently embarking on a voter mobilisation drive and here in Mazowe, village heads, School Development Committees (SDCs) have been directed to recruit members to be incorporated into the ruling party structures. Young people who are in form 4 and 6 are being forced to take identity documents and forcibly being made to submit their identity numbers and proof of residence by the local ZANU PF leadership” said a participant from Mazowe. Efforts to put an end to this practice have been futile since the police have not acted on reports made by community members.

Participants further highlighted that these early warning signs were an indication that the 2023 elections might be violent hence the need for institutions to be responsive. In addition to this, participants also called for the decentralisation of Independent Commissions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to decentralise to wards for easy access. As part of resolutions, the peace clubs resolved to continue documenting and reporting cases of human rights violations to the responsible institutions and also continue mediating conflicts in a bid to build social cohesion in local communities.

The meetings by Heal Zimbabwe are part of efforts to empower local communities to help safeguard against human rights abuse and also help build peaceful communities. Heal Zimbabwe utilizes various strategies to address conflicts in local communities. One of these ways is the use of community dialogues, an initiative for communities to discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in their communities. The platforms also equip communities with relevant information on Covid 19, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and human rights. Such platforms also facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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