By Thandiwe Garusa
HUMAN rights watchdog, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has urged the government to work on ensuring there is a safe and peaceful environment and level playing field ahead of the 2022 by-elections.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced early this month, the long outstanding by-elections for vacant 105 local council, and 28 parliamentary seats will be held in the first quarter of 2022.
However, in response, the ZPP said in a statement this week, the government must desist from any acts of violence, end the use of the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for delaying elections, accord citizens the right to documentation, conduct voter registration, stop the politicisation of food distribution, reign in traditional leaders and free the airwaves.
“We strongly believe that Zimbabwe is capable of holding a free, fair, and credible election and it takes the will of those in positions of authority – both in and outside government to undertake measures towards that,” it said.
“As outlined in our statement, it starts with creating a violence-free environment, application of the law without fear or favour, and the end to the use of aid and traditional leaders as tools for coercion.”
Added the statement: “With a proper documentation and voter registration process, every eligible citizen gets their chance to exercise their right to vote.
“This is not just for the 2022 by-elections as it sets the pace for a freer, fairer, and more credible environment in 2023 and beyond.”
The government has been accused of human rights violations, using Covid-19 as a repressive tool to stop elections, using food and other aid as a tool of coercion where opposition supporters are denied access to aid from the government, and controlling public media.