By Zimbabwe Peace Project
Hurungwe West has been a hot bed of violence since the announcement of the by elections.The violence has mainly targeted supporters of former legislator and independent candidate Temba Mliswa. The violence has been perpetrated with impunity.
Those suspected of backing Mliswa who include traditional leaders, his election campaign team, workers at his Spring farm in Karoi and general supporters have been targets. Some workers at Mliswa’s farm had to be hospitalised with injuries sustained in the violence. Earlier during the campaign Mliswa was barred from setting foot in the constituency and in a similar fashion Kudakwashe Ben a former District youth chairperson in the constituency was threatened with death.
Hate language has been used at most meetings in the constituency and to date no action has been taken to ensure that the playing field is level for all candidates. Traditional leaders have been instructed in violation of section 281 (2) of the constitution to register and accompany their subjects on election day. Although perpetrators of physical violence and other violations including hate language and vote buying have been identified nothing has been done to correct the situation. Schools have been used as venues for meetings as well as places where punishment was meted out to opponents.
In the campaign period Mliswa has been arrested twice for allegedly disrupting Zanu PF meetings and for defacing Zanu PF posters. The seat became vacant following the expulsion of Mliswa from both Zanu PF and Parliament. Mliswa is contesting against Keith Guzah who is the Zanu PF candidate.
In the other fifteen constituencies the common human rights violations have been the use of hate language against other candidates as well as against the opposition MDC-T. Supporters of other candidates like in the Chirumanzu Zibagwe campaign have been threatened with no access to development and no access to food aid. In other constituencies the electorate has felt threatened by the door to door campaigns largely conducted by Zanu PF. Some candidates have complained about the defacing of their posters.
Vote buying has also been noted in some constituencies among them Tsholotsho North, Dangamvura-Chikanga and Headlands where rice as well as maize were some of the goodies dished out to the electorate.
While serious tensions were noted among the leaders the situation on the ground remained calm in some constituencies where it has been realised that the competition is minimal.
In Bulawayo intra party conflicts affecting the opposition MDC-T were exposed as leaders within the party were unable to reach consensus on whether or not to participate in the by elections.
Zimbabwe Peace Project a non partisan organisation which seeks to advance sustainable peace by monitoring and documenting the breaches of peace is still concerned that the playing field has not been level in most constituencies where the by elections are taking place.
In all the time that the campaigns have been going on ZPP has been concerned by the missing voice of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and eagerly awaits the report of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission which sent teams to Hurungwe West in particular.
The concern is that in the constituencies where violence and other violations have been prevalent the electorate is gripped with fear and they are unlikely to freely exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right. School children have had to skip school on days when meetings were scheduled for fear of being caught in between.