ZIMBABWE is set for a second government of national unity after next year’s elections as conditions do not exist for a credible ballot, rights groups warned Thursday.
The country is set to hold fresh polls in March to replace a fractious coalition government that was formed following violent but inconclusive elections in 2008.
But rights groups have warned that a credible poll remains unlikely with harassment, intimidation, reprisals, and acts of torture still rife and most people facing obstacles in the exercise of their freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.
The regional SADC grouping, which facilitated the coalition deal, charged the unity administration with easing political tensions in the country and implementing reforms to help ensure free and fair elections.
But a report released Thursday by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OPHRD) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association warned that next year’s polls will likely be as violent and inconclusive as the 2008 ballot.
“The report concludes that the political deadlock in Zimbabwe hinders the implementation of reforms and the establishment of a favourable environment for free and fair elections,” said ex-Swaziland High Court judge, Justice Thomas Masuku who heads OPHRD.
“The degree of human rights violations in the country follows a recurring pattern that usually culminates during electoral periods.
“This situation may in turn create a real danger that another GNU may emerge from the next elections and the environment in which human rights defenders operate is unlikely to improve in the near future.”
The report was also scathing about the country’s failure to bring to justice those accused of human rights violations and demanded that the country repeal oppressive legislation such as Criminal Law and Codification Act.
“So far, most perpetrators of human rights violations against human rights defenders have not been charged and remain free,” said Justice Masuku.
“(Zimbabwe should also comply with obligations to) assess the domestic legislation and bring it into conformity with international and regional human rights standards. In particular to review the POSA, AIPPA and the Criminal Law and Codification Act.”
President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have called for an end to political violence as campaigning for the elections gets into full-swing, but the MDC-T leader is not convinced about his rival’s sincerity over the issue.
And despite agreeing with Mugabe that their unity deal was no longer workable, Tsvangirai has said conditions are not yet in place for free and fair elections and accuses his rival of stalling the implementation key reforms.
Work is, however, continuing on a new constitution with a draft charter expected to be put to a referendum early next year ahead of the March elections.