The Residents Association Coalition for Electoral Reforms bemoans the emergency of political violence ahead of the 26 March by-elections and condemns pronouncements by some political and national leaders that encourage political violence and intolerance among the citizens as this has a potential to divide an already polarized society.
The recent chilling events of political violence in Kwekwe, Epworth and Chitungwiza calls for an urgent intervention before the situation gets out of hand, and any acts of violence must be condemned. The current wave of political violence has serious implications on women and children and can see the repeat of the events of 2008 that plunged the nation into a social and political crisis, and collapsed services delivery.
We warn that any election outcome premised on violence will not produce the desired elected leadership that has the capacity to address social service delivery challenges bedeviling our country, and any election outcome birthed through violence is not “free and fair.”
We affirm that Zimbabwe is founded on a multi-party democratic system and every citizen has the right to join and to participate in the activities of a political party or organisation of their choice as provided in Section 67(2)(a), and those who think otherwise are fighting the Constitution of Zimbabwe. It is a constitutional right for every citizen to participate, individually or collectively, in gatherings or groups or in any other manner, in peaceful activities to influence, challenge or support the policies of the Government or any political or whatever cause in terms of Section 67 (2)(d). Residents must not be compelled to attend a meeting or gathering as this violates Section 58 of the constitution on freedom of association and assembly.
We call upon the security sector in particular the police to exercise their mandate professionally, without fear or favour when executing their mandate. Section 208 (2)(a), (b), (c) and (d) calls for all members of the security services not to act in a partisan manner, further the interests of any political party or cause, prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause, or violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.
It is in our view that all cases of political violence and perpetrators will be dealt with accordingly in line with the dictates of the laws of the land, and the available systems and mechanisms to eliminate electoral violence must be activated.
We warn the government and the security establishment that the existence of machete gangs and drug peddlers poses a serious security threat which must be dealt with once and for all.
We urge the government particularly the security sector to fully exercise its mandate by ratcheting a deliberate programme of action to eliminate machete gangs as they are a threat to national security. Furthermore, in accordance with Section 165(4)(a) and (d), we anticipate that members of the judiciary will not engage in political activities and attend political meetings as this will have implications on the impartiality of the judiciary when dealing with cases of political violence.
We call upon both private and state media to desist from channelling out hate speech and language, and that they must demonstrate professionalism when reporting on politics especially during this campaign period. We are worried that there is no desire and commitment to embrace democratic and constitutional culture by political leaders and this has a potential to plunge the nation into a serious crisis if not addressed.
We expect Independent Commissions established in terms of Chapter 12 of the Constitution to support and entrench human rights and democracy, promote constitutionalism and ensure that injustices are remedied timeously.
We reiterate our position that the upcoming by-elections are a yardstick to measure the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s capacity to hold a free and fair election ahead of the 2023 general elections.
We therefore make the following recommendations;
- Parliament must expedite the enactment of an Act of Parliament that will provide for an independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services, and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct in terms of Section 210 of the constitution.
- Political leaders must demonstrate leadership by desisting from channelling out hate speech or pronouncements that promote violence, and as such we expect them to publicly retract their statements through newspapers and other platforms such as rallies and press conferences.
- The government must have a deliberate programme to arrest and eliminate machete gangs and drug peddlers as these are enablers of politically motivated violence.
- ZEC must be open to receive reports, complaints from the public and take action before the issues escalate to violence.
- The Zimbabwe Human Right Commission must conduct an investigation on all allegations of violations of human rights and freedoms from the day by elections were proclaimed to date and come up with recommendations that will be tabled before Parliament.
Endorsed by the following Residents Associations;
- Buhera Residents Network Trust
- Combined Harare Residents Association
- Harare Residents Trust
- Chitungwiza Residents Trust
- Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association
- Combined Mvurwi Residents and Ratepayers Association
- Chinhoyi Residents Trust
- Gwanda Residents Association
- Gweru Residents Forum
- Epworth Residents Development Association
- Kadoma Progressive Residents Association
- Local Governance Trust
- Marondera Residents Open Forum
- Marondera Progressive Residents and Ratepayers Association
- Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance
- Mutoko Residents Association
- Mvuma Residents Association Trust
- Norton Residents Alliance
- Simukai Rural Residents Trust
- United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers