Local human rights advocacy group, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) says the recent political violence in Matabeleland confirms the toxicity of country’s current political environment.
In its monthly monitoring report for October, ZPP said intimidation reminiscent of the 2008 political violence pressures citizens into supporting the ruling Zanu PF party.
“The violence reported around the October 22 by-elections in Matobo Ward 2 and Insiza Ward 4, resulting in CCC members sustaining severe injuries, confirms the political environment toxicity in Zimbabwe. The details include inter-party and intra-party violence and threats to candidates and campaign teams. These violent incidents negatively affect the electorate’s participation in democratic political processes, especially among vulnerable groups.
“Most citizens would rather not relive the violent elections of 2008, thus easily intimidated and pressured into supporting Zanu PF. The gendered nature of the violence reported in an incident where four women were stripped of their clothing is one of the worrying barriers to women participating in politics and governance. Images of the violated half-naked women went viral on social media. The assault of women with booted feet makes more women apathetic to politics,” read the report.
ZPP expressed concern over the bussing of culprits to unleash violence where their personalities are unknown and called for the adoption of interventions that ensure a violent free political environment.
“The growing suspicion that the perpetrators are coming from outside the area is worrying. The practice is not new. In years past, bussed perpetrators unleashed violence in territories where their identity is unknown. The Matabeleland South victims report that most assailants were men armed with guns, spoke Shona, and drove cars emblazoned Mashonaland Central.
“ZPP recommends the adoption of the following interventions to ensure that the political and electoral environment is violent free. More resources should be channeled toward supporting efforts to document admissible evidence and expose perpetrators of politically motivated violence. Political parties should reign in their leaders and supporters to desist from perpetrating violence by putting in place sanctions against perpetrators. Continue to pressure Chapter 12 Commissions to act on submitted reports on politically motivated violence.
“ZPP expressed concern about the human rights violations it had monitored and documented and recommended the following: the need for more engagement with the police as the institution responsible for the protection of life and property. For the Multi Party Liaison Committee to be operational all the time be there an election or not. The decentralization of services of Chapter 12 Commissions to provincial and district levels to enable the expediting of complaints and investigations and alleviate the challenge of victims having to travel long distances to report human rights violations.” said ZPP.