Govt urged to translate calls for peace into action

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By Reason Razao | Senior Reporter

United States of America’s Department of State, Assistant Secretary Molly Phee has said calls by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for peace and non-violence during the election period are not enough, adding that the rhetoric should be translated into action.

Phee who was responding to a question by VOA, on whether the government was doing enough to curb political violence said there is a need to usher in a functioning healthy democracy where people are allowed to express their political affiliation without fear.

Commenting on the recent murder of Citizens Coalition for Change activist Tinashe Chitsunge, Phee urged the government to adhere to the statutes within the Constitution if the country is to hold a free and fair election.

“I oppose political violence both in my own country and in Zimbabwe and in any other country. You cannot have a functioning healthy democracy if people are intimidated by violence,” Phee said.

“I know we’ve seen examples earlier this year of political parties and citizens exercising their democratic rights, being detained, being beaten up by police forces.

“The example you’ve just described, a vigilante force by the political party, all of that is disturbing and should be unacceptable for a government and a society committed to a truly free and fair election,” the assistant Secretary added.

Phee called on President Mnangagwa’s government to follow through on his call for peace.

“His rhetoric is not yet being translated into action, and we would urge the government to follow the rhetoric outlined by the President.”

Zimbabwe is set to hold its general election on August 23 and according to Phee the run-up to the general plebiscite has been marred by blatant weaponization of the law against government critics and opposition parties.

“I would like to recall that the president of Zimbabwe, President Mnangagwa, has said repeatedly that he wants his country to hold free and fair elections.

“And we believe that would be the best path to promote peace and prosperity in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, we have seen a fact pattern over recent months that suggests that a free and fair election is in doubt.

“Last month, a new legislation called the Patriotic Act was adopted, and in fact, that legislation imposes restrictions on basic political freedoms agreed in Zimbabwe’s constitution, African Union protocols and in UN protocols,” Phee said.

“Those include freedom of assembly that allows citizens and political parties to meet and prepare to engage in an election process, and it also includes restrictions on speech and expression both by citizens, political parties, and journalists.”

The Assistant Secretary also raised red flags over the harassment of opposition political parties and citizens.

“We’ve also seen opposition political parties and citizens actively harassed and prevented from exercising their political freedoms that should be guaranteed by those regimes that I’ve described, the regimes under the Zimbabwean constitution, and as expressed by the African Union and the United Nations.”