Less than two weeks before the crucial July 30 harmonised elections, the political atmosphere in the country has become toxic, with stakeholders employing dirty tricks against opponents in violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct and the national peace pledge signed by political parties, the Zimbabwe Peace Project has said.
The peace pledge is a code of conduct that commits presidential candidates and their parties to campaign peacefully and encourages tolerance among the different political parties.
Over 20 political parties pledged to work against violence and to uphold good election conduct in June this year.
ZPP said the violations included threats, use of inciting or threatening violence, acting in ways that provoke violence and forcing voters to reveal their choice of candidates or reprisals against a voter who would have voted in a particular way.
The peace watchdog further indicated that violence could also be through provocative songs, speeches or dances as well as defacing or removing rivals’ posters.
The parties that signed the peace pledge include Zanu PF, the MDC Alliance, the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T, and the Elton Mangoma-led Coalition of Democrats, People’s Rainbow Coalition led by Joice Mujuru, the National Patriotic Front led by Ambrose Mutinhiri and the Republican Party of Zimbabwe led by Kwanele Hlabangana.
In its latest report on the electoral process focusing on the period from July 1 to 13, ZPP said it was worrisome that cases of political violence were still high and in violation of the pledge.
“The first two weeks of July have seen a deviation from the political party code by most of the political parties, particularly those that were involved in the signing of the peace pledge supported by the NPRC,” the report reads in part.
A total of 71 violations have been recorded in the period July 1 to 13 compared to 101 violations recorded during the same period in the month of June. This is a high figure considering that elections are less than 14 days away. Intolerance has been at the heart of most of these violations and the fight for political positions in political parties.”
ZPP also recorded cases in which Zanu PF activists and traditional leaders have been implicated in politically biased food aid distribution.
A food distribution exercise in Norton was aborted after supporters of Christopher Mutsvangwa (Zanu PF) and Temba Mliswa (Independent) clashed over disagreements on who should distribute the food.
ZPP indicated that increasing hate speech, particularly on social media, was a worrying sign of intolerance and may incite party supporters to violence.
It said this intolerance reached a crescendo when the Zimbabwe Election Support Network abandoned a meeting in Mutare after disruptions by Zanu PF and MDC Alliance supporters.
“The intolerance also reached extreme levels after some politicians have described other political parties as ‘cockroaches’ and such words have been known to fuel violence in the past, as was in Rwanda in the 1990s. The intolerance has also been manifested by the high number of cases of defaced posters,” ZPP said.
“The perpetrators have mainly been Zanu PF and MDC Alliance supporters and candidates. The concentration of violence in areas that primary elections were contentious, such as Epworth shows that festering violence which is left unresolved can be a source of future conflict.”
Bulawayo-based #ThisConstitution leader Abigail Mupambi said the ongoing breach of the pledge was testimony of high levels of intolerance.
“I think it’s being caused by intolerance, particularly along factional breakaway parties or individuals. Intra-party disagreements that emanate from primaries across the board gave birth to serious levels of intolerance amongst players,” she said.
“We witnessed the cropping of several independent candidates who still claim they are holding their party tickets.
This is happening across the board and it is contributing to massive confusion in the field, which, no doubt, is leading to some defacing or pulling down each other’s posters.”
Mupambi said the multi-party liaison committees should look into these issues and find ways to resolve them as the election date draws closer.