Indigenous Minority Groups’ Participation in Elections and Electoral Processes in Zimbabwe

With by-elections looming, MACRAD has published a research looking into the participation of  Zimbabwean indigenous minority groups in elections. The research gives us insights into how minority groups exercise their rights in voting considering their minority status in the broader shrinking democratic space in Zimbabwe. Read on for more.

This paper focus on the participation of indigenous minority groups in elections and various electoral processes in post-independent Zimbabwe. The minority ethnic groups included herein are the Shangaan and the Venda. The Shangaan are the majority ethnic group scattered across four constituencies namely Chiredzi North, Chiredzi East, Chiredzi West and Chiredzi South of the Chiredzi district. Other Shangaan people are sparsely populated in Mwenezi West and Mwenezi East constituencies of Mwenezi district. Lastly, Venda ethnic group is concentrated in Beitbridge district located in Matabeleland South province.

Language as a form of exclusion

Despite the Zimbabwean constitution recognizing 16 official languages in Zimbabwe, there is limited use of minority languages by officials during elections. As a result, the Shangaan and Venda people have been neglected in various electoral processes due to language. Commonly used languages are Shona, Ndebele and English. Indeed, on national television, radios and newspapers all other minority languages were/are never given the platform. Yet, these languages are of paramount importance, for instance in voter education programs, registration, campaigning, human rights awareness campaigns among other critical issues.

Furthermore, pamphlets and flyers designed and used by government departments and those of active rights based and political institutions such as ZESN, ZEC and other CSOs do not consider translating their messages to cater for the minority. As a result, they vote with ignorance or bias depending on whoever came and campaign to them – mostly ZANU PF. Practically, these three areas (Chiredzi, Mwenezi and Beitbridge) were automatically made a protectorate of ZANU PF and the government.

Remote and marginal areas

Most parts where the Shangaan people reside in Chiredzi and Mwenezi and Venda people in Matabeleland South are remote and not well connected road networks, airwaves and basic amenities. The following are amenities they lack and how they negatively impact on their access to information which could enhance their informed political participation.

Limited access to information communication conduits

There are profound challenges in getting Zimbabwean radio and television waves in some parts of Chiredzi south covering areas like Boli Muhlanguleni, Chilonga etc. The disconnection form national broadcasting deprive them accessing information which is vital in enhancing their political horizon critical their participation just like other Zimbabwean citizens. In cases where airwaves are reached, only the main line languages (Shona, Ndebele and English) are used in news and campaigns. As a result, this has created serious communication barriers and breakdown. For the case of Masvingo, the province have two main local radio stations namely Hevoi FM and Great Zimbabwe University campus radio.

Read the full report here (4MB PDF)

Source: MACRAD

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