THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) could be forced to suspend the 2018 election if a repeat of the 2008 violence is experienced, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has warned.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
ZHRC chairperson, Elasto Mugwadi told delegates at a recent event to celebrate ZHRC’s achievement of A status accreditation with the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) that his commission was disturbed by the sharp rise in cases of political violence ahead of next year’s elections.
“We will not tolerate diatribes, hate speech and political incitement that disturb the peace of our innocent people,” he said.
“We say ‘No’ to a repeat of the 2008 political upheavals and to this extent we will not hesitate to recommend to Zec suspension of the plebiscite in any constituency proven to be riddled with political violence and, therefore, a gross violation of people’s fundamental rights and freedoms,” he said.
In June 2008 Zimbabwe had a run-off election after opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round, but failed to garner enough votes to be declared the outright winner. Tsvangirai later pulled out of the second round citing systematic violence and killing of his supporters by State security agents and Zanu PF militias in a reign of terror aimed at ensuring President Robert Mugabe’s retention of power.
Mugwadi warned political actors to heed ZHRC’s call for a violence-free poll.
“It is my hope that our messages for tolerance and respect for human dignity to political actors prior to, during and after the impending 2018 harmonised elections will see peace and tranquillity prevailing and flourishing in this our beautiful country Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mugwadi said, ZHRC applied for accreditation to the GANHRI and was successfully assessed in May 2016 on the basis that the commission had a broad mandate and competence, autonomy from the government, independence guaranteed by statutes or by the Constitution, pluralism, including through membership and/or effective co-operation with partners relevant to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of fundamental human rights and freedoms, adequacy of resources and adequate powers of investigation of alleged cases of human rights violations.
The commission, Mugwadi said, had considered over 1 500 complaints so far and in 2016 alone handled 515 cases of rights violations. He said the GANHRI had called for urgent review or alignment of enabling legislation, decentralisation of the ZHRC, streamlining of procedures on submission of complaints and adequate budgetary support.
The government has been accused of under-resourcing commissions and at one time former secretary of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, David Mangota likened the birth of the ZHRC to “a baby born when its parents little expected it – there were no diapers, no feeding bottle and milk and no perambulator”.