Statement by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission on Enjoyment of Political Rights Before, During and after Elections

The mandate of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC/Commission) is to promote, protect and enforce human rights, fundamental freedoms, and administrative justice in Zimbabwe. Its establishment and functions are provided for in sections 232 (b), 233, 242 and 243 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act of 2013 and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Act [Chapter 10:30].

As the country prepares for the by-elections to be held on the 26th of March 2022, the ZHRC has noted with great concern the recent reports of violent clashes at rallies and calls upon all political parties and relevant stakeholders to shun all forms of politically motivated violence. Section 67 (2) (b) of the Constitution guarantees the right to campaign freely and peacefully for a political party or cause of own choice and therefore the Commission strongly condemns all political violence as it is a violation of political rights and freedoms.

In addition to causing loss of life, political violence invariably results in bodily injury or harm, destruction of property and erosion of the culture and principles of democracy. The Commission therefore unreservedly condemns these incidents of politically motivated violence and calls on all political parties involved in the electoral process to show restraint and refrain from provocative conduct or incitement of supporters to commit acts of violence. It is common cause that anyone who commits, orders, incites, encourages, or contributes in any way to the commission of violent crime is complicit in the violence and such persons should be held accountable for their conduct.

Article 25 (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees the right to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections, which should be by universal and equal suffrage, held by secret ballot and guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors. The ability to participate in public life personally or through freely chosen representatives is the hallmark of democracy.

There is need to embrace multi-party politics which is highly tolerant regardless of divergent political views. Political tolerance should be encouraged, and violence should be condemned by all political parties and actors. The Commission particularly condemns the use of inflammatory language by some political actors during campaign rallies, which causes tension amongst members of various political parties. Political leaders have an obligation to not only ensure that electoral processes take place in a transparent and peaceful manner but are also responsible for preventing and discouraging their supporters from resorting to any type of violence before, during and after elections. Candidates and political parties should conduct constructive, issue-based campaigns that avoid amplifying societal divisions. The maintenance of national cohesion, peace and unity depend on campaigns that seek to unite rather than divide the electorate and respond to the aspirations of the Zimbabwean people for sustainable development by the year 2030.

The high level of political intolerance which has resulted in escalation of interparty and intra-party violence ahead of the by-elections and the 2023 harmonised elections is disturbing and unacceptable in a democratic and free society that Zimbabwe is. For citizens to make informed choices, there is need for equitable access to the media so that the harmful effects of disinformation are mitigated. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission therefore calls upon all political leaders to immediately de-escalate tension and re-engage constructively, in the interests of the people of Zimbabwe, with a view to agree on the modalities of conducting inclusive, free, fair, transparent, and credible elections.

The Commission urges the law enforcement officials to impartially enforce the law without fear or favour so that all political parties freely hold their election campaigns and rallies without unjustified stringent measures or requirements. ZHRC further calls on the law enforcement agencies to uphold the human rights and freedoms of all citizens, including freedom of assembly, association, and expression. Citizens are reminded that Article 2 (3) (a) of the ICCPR guarantees an effective remedy even in instances where human rights violations have been committed by persons acting in an official party.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission

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