By Leopold Munhende
A RECENT study on SADC democratic processes has revealed that 77 percent of Zimbabweans live in fear and are very mindful of what they said in public about their rulers.
The study by Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) reveals Zimbabweans were most fearful of politically motivated violence as compared to four other countries, South Africa, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana.
72 percent of Zambians are very careful on what they say in public, with 63 percent South Africans, 49 percent Namibians and 49 percent of BaTswana feeling the same way about their governments, according to the research.
“None of the five countries reflects the idea that free speech and publicly expressed opinions are valued in the politics of these countries. Ratherm the findings suggest that people self-censor a good deal, and this makes politics a risky business,” reads the report.
Some 65 percent of Zimbabweans are said to be very careful when it comes to voting while 68 percent were very cognisant of organisations they join as compared to 46 percent in Botswana, 44 percent in Namibia with South Africa and Zambia coming in a close 64 percent and 66 percent respectively.
Zimbabwe has been internationally regarded as a pariah state for over two decades due to widely publicised disregard for basic human rights, state sponsored and politically motivated violence and a generally poor administration under ruling Zanu PF.
Opposition supporters and leaders have over the past 20 years been punished for dissent with violence being the likely answer from ruling Zanu PF, the police, army and veterans of the liberation struggle.
Adds the report: “This seems a good reflection of how combative elections are in Southern Africa, with most elections being two-horse races, in virtually every country, half or more than half are careful about voting, and this says a considerable amount about people’s fears that their vote be discovered.
“In Zimbabwe there are endless anecdotes about devices to see for whom one votes, but, more seriously, there have been reprisals for voting against the ruling party.
“The trend here to citizens being very careful in public and about their affiliations is widespread across the region.
“Zimbabweans are the most careful about what they say, who they vote for, and most fearful about political violence, Zimbabwe ranks highest in all forms, followed by closely by Zambia and South Africa. Zambia.”
Titled, Citizenship, Agency and Deliberative Democracy in Five SADC Countries, RAU notes only 22 percent believe the Zanu PF government is doing enough to fight corruption.