ZRP says election campaign largely peaceful, but for poster vandalism

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By Business Day

HARARE: The ZRP has said they were “disturbed” by a rise in incidents of rival political parties tearing each others’ election campaign posters, which has the effect of tainting an otherwise peaceful run-up to elections set for July 30.

Elections in Zimbabwe, in the past, have often been occasion for a roll-out of violent clashes between political parties. In particular, the 2008 election, which went into an election run-off between the former ruler Robert Mugabe and the late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, resulted in an outbreak of violence. It led to Tsvangirai pulling out of participation from the run-off vote.

Amnesty International said in a statement that this year’s elections offered a chance to break with decades of violence. “Zimbabwe’s election on July 30, will take place in the context of decades of politically motivated, gross human rights violations, including mass killings, the forced disappearance of critics and suppression of peaceful protesters.”

On Tuesday, Charity Charamba, the police spokesperson said police were happy to note that the prevalence of violence has been less this year than in previous elections.

“The obvious reason is that his excellency [Emmerson Mnangagawa], the highest office in the land, has been preaching peace. So, peace is generally prevailing in the country, but police are disturbed by tearing of rival political parties’ posters and forcing rival supporters to remove their party regalia. These acts of political intimidation should be reported to the police,” she said at a news briefing held at the police headquarters.

Charamba would not be drawn on which political party was most guilty of tearing up election campaign posters, saying, “All political parties are involved in defacing posters and all have been warned. The police mean business and they will be arrested.”

Last month, about 20 political parties signed a peace pledge and committed to violence-free election campaigning. The elections are widely seen to be a high-stakes contest between the incumbent, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zanu-PF, and Nelson Chamisa, the presidential candidate of the MDC Alliance.

An explosion at White City stadium in the second city of Bulawayo last month, during a Zanu-PF rally, which injured 50 and killed two, has, so far, been the only major violent act during election campaigning. Police have offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of persons behind the rally blast. Charamba said investigations into the blast were still ongoing.

Media reports last week suggested that investigators from Russia had been engaged to assist with the stadium blast. However, Charamba denied that any foreign investigators had been asked to help. “Right now, internal security is involved and local police are well trained and capable of investigating.”

An official at the Bulawayo City Council confirmed that the stadium, popular for prayer vigils, football matches and music concerts was still closed, with its spokesperson saying, “White City Stadium is currently a restricted area to allow security authorities time to complete their investigations. The council will be guided accordingly by the relevant authorities.”