No room for political violence

Priscilla Chigumba

Government is clamping down on potential political violence through a raft of measures that are set to deliver a free, fair and credible election in 2018.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and other Constitutional commissions and stakeholders have all been primed to clampdown on political violence.

President Emmerson has insisted on a non-violent poll.

To this end, a special committee – comprising the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Police and independent commissions — has been established to facilitate swift handling of political violence cases.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has set up teams to monitor primary elections and render swift assistance to victims of political violence; while the organisation is also closely monitoring speeches by politicians.

Political parties are under close scrutiny after they signed a code of conduct that binds them to non-violent conduct.

Zec Chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba told The Sunday Mail that: “The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has gone on record to condemn all forms of violence. We have also created dispute mechanisms to take care of that.

“Political parties have a code of conduct which prevents them from electoral violence. They have agreed that they will enforce they own code of conduct.

“The judiciary system has set up fast tract courts that deal with politically motivated violence and we also need the police to investigate and send dockets to the courts on time. In fact there are now special prosecutors and magistrates have been appointed to specially deal with.”

Justice Chigumba said the new mechanisms helped victims of political violence to report freely.

“What we need to do is to disseminate information or people to report, because nothing can be done if a report is not made. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is also playing a key role.

“We will do it at a coordinated approached and form a special committee. It will be done at a national level but we will cascade it to provincial and district levels and say this is what we will be doing.

“During this election period the ZHRC is deploying its teams of monitors into the provinces to assess the human rights situation, engage relevant stakeholders, and make recommendations as may be appropriate. The presence of ZHRC monitors in the field has a deterrent effect on violation of human rights.”

The Zec Chairperson said while the law prescribed that the committees to investigate violence be set up during elections proper, the electoral body had gone the extra mile to ensure that the teams become operational during primary elections.

Responding to questions from The Sunday Mail, ZHRC deputy chair Dr Ellen Sithole said the organisation would investigate cases of violence and deploy teams to monitor primary elections.

“The ZHRC also has an investigative mandate. The commission can investigate the conduct of any authority or person, where it is alleged that any of the human rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration of Human Rights (Chapter 4 of the Constitution) has been violated by that authority or person.

“This provision also extends to the conduct of persons or authorities during the electoral period. The Commission has, therefore, set up mechanisms to receive and investigate complaints where human rights violations have been alleged. The Commission is currently attending to cases that have been brought to its attention by victims of human rights violations.

“The ZHRC Complaints Handling and Investigation Unit is also carrying out some investigations on political violence reported directly to the Commission and is in constant consultation with ZEC in order to end this intimidation.

Dr Sithole said some of the cases the ZHRC had addressed included the issue of voter registration slips which were being demanded by agents of political parties. She said this was a violation of human rights and submitted its report to ZEC and political parties.