A newly released 26 March by-election report by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has laid bare the need for voter education and civic engagement by responsible authorities in order to reduce election violence, voter apathy and intimidation.
During the election period, ZESN said it observed electoral malpractices that include violence during campaigns; restriction of some opposition campaign activities; vote-buying; unequal access to the public media among others, which it said can be addressed if there is civic engagement.
“In view of the observations made, there is a need for robust civic and voter education interventions encouraging voters to vote in elections; peacebuilding initiatives targeting political parties and local communities and their leadership to reduce incidences of violence and intimidation; avoiding setting up polling stations in privately owned properties or near controversial spaces, for instance near political party billboards or offices; and considering having the same closing date for National Assembly and local authority by-elections voters’ rolls, among other things,” ZESN said.
The election watchdog further stated that awareness targeting the youth should be undertaken to promote voter
registration in view of the upcoming delimitation exercise and the 2023 Harmonised Elections.
ZESN also castigated the high levels of violence which was witnessed during the by-elections.
Most notable was the violence that erupted during the CCC’s Kwekwe rally when the party’s president, Nelson Chamisa, was addressing the crowd.
The violence, which was allegedly spearheaded by ZANU-PF supporters in CCC regalia led to the death of Mboneni Ncube, a CCC supporter and injuring of many others.
ZESN underscored the need for the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and other stakeholders to conduct peacebuilding initiatives targeting local communities and their leadership to reduce incidences of violence and intimidation ahead of the 2023 Harmonised Elections.
“Government should ensure equality before the law as well as the equal enjoyment of civil and
political rights across the political divide,” ZESN said.
The report also said it was worrying that the participation of women and youth in the by-elections was low.
“ZESN noted a huge reduction in turnout in these by-elections when compared to the July 2018 harmonised elections. In most cases, the combined number of cast votes per constituency failed to reach the votes polled for 2018 winning candidates. The 2018 winning candidate had 22 926 votes. The pattern was replicated in almost all
of the 28 constituencies,” the report said.