New Zimbabwe.com

NGOs call for tolerance in wake of violence upsurge ahead of 2023 elections  

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent 


AS Zimbabwe braces for harmonised elections next year, political party leaders have been rallied to preach peace and tolerance to divergent political views and preferences among their followers.

According to a recent research, a total 1,901 politically motivated cases have been recorded so far as calls for solutions to the deepening polarisation and political intolerance escalate ahead of the 2023 general elections.

In its latest report, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (ZHRNGO Forum) revealed violence was once again showing its ugly head as protagonists employ dirty tactics to gain both political and electoral advantage.

The findings of the body’s probe centred on recent skirmishes in Mbare, Matobo and Insiza Districts.

ZHRNGO Forum said cases recorded ranged from arbitrary arrests, malicious damage to property, arson, threats, harassment, intimidation as well as assault and torture.

“The recent events that occurred in Mbare and Matebeleland South Province and the hate speech and incitement in Mberengwa are all highly alarming,” read the report.

“These recent spates of politically motivated violence, which are unraveling just months away from the 2023 harmonised elections, serve to illuminate the dangers of opting for the use of political violence as a means of gaining both political and electoral advantage.”

“It is apparent that the country’s deepening polarisation and political crisis need urgent intervention to ensure that Zimbabwe experiences a free, fair and peaceful election in 2023,” the report said.

Following these skirmishes, the highest number of complaints were recorded under assault and torture, where 41 cases were registered against Zanu PF in all the incidences.

In a recent incident reported by NewZimbabwe.com in its November 7, 2022 edition, a Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) activist was seriously injured following a machete attack by a local Zanu PF ward councillor for demanding free Presidential farming inputs.

The victim, Wonder Matashu (35) of Kapfunde, Magunje Constituency, was left nursing injuries on the head and his left hand.

He was struck with a machete by Ward 12 Councillor Chris Mudengezerwa in a fracas after he was denied access to seed and fertilizer set for distribution in the area.

The confrontation between the two was sparked after Mudengezerwa allegedly moved to have Matashu’s name deleted from a list of beneficiaries on grounds that he was an opposition CCC member.

Numerous other reports have been recorded of villagers being denied food aid and presidential farming inputs on the basis of opposition political allegiances.

Linda Masarira

In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, opposition Labour, Economists and Afrikan Democrats (LEAD) president, Linda Masarira said there was need to inculcate a culture of peace and tolerance among Zimbabweans in order to eradicate political violence.

“So if we are going to have a wide awareness campaign on a political violence-free environment, it has to start with political party leaders. They have to be able to contain their followers,” said Masarira.

“They have to preach a message of peace to unite the people and stop the toxicity and polarity in our political economy for us to be able to thrive as one people.

“I think differing in political opinion or preferences should never make us enemies because at the end of the day when these people are elected, whether as Members of Parliament (MPs) or as councillors they still dine, walk together and stay in same hotels and will be laughing together, but their supporters will be beating and killing each other.”

She underscored the urgency to promote political tolerance.

“We should be serious about promoting tolerance. We need to be serious about promoting unity as a country, and about complying with our Electoral Act and our Constitution, that’s the only way we can be able to have a violence-free election.

“There is need to have all hands on deck and have leaders knowing they should not play with people’s lives.”

Masarira emphasised that she does not condone any form of violence, which is sometimes fuelled by elements benefitting from it.

“I do not condone any form of violence, but when we view these issues, we need to be able to look at both sides of the coin.

“The violence is systemic as there are people benefitting from this narrative of having a violent political election environment,” said the LEAD president.

“They get money through CSOs (civil society organisations) purportedly to monitor the situation. It has become a job, it has become a way of livelihood for some political elements in our country.

“We need to sober up as a country and start viewing some of these issues from a bird’s eye view on how innocent and gullible people continue to be used in these money-making schemes for political elites in this country.”

The toxic political environment needs leaders to chastise supporters against wayward behaviour and conduct.

“It’s actually mind-boggling that the political parties in this violence hardly even condemn and stop their supporters from perpetrating violence.

“We have a political economy that thrives on violence, for a certain narrative to be scripted that the political environment was not conducive for elections so that when they lose elections they have something to say; ‘No, kwanga kune violence, so the elections were not free and fair,” said Masarira.

She appealed to leaders, particularly from Zanu PF and CCC, to teach their supporters political tolerance.