In a move that is aimed at ensuring that peace and tolerance prevails ahead of elections, Heal Zimbabwe through its National Peace campaign dubbed,”13 Million Voices for Peace”  scaled up its collaborative neutral platforms. The platforms sought to encourage political parties, youths and ordinary citizens to uphold peace and tolerance ahead of the 2018 plebiscite.

 From 21-28 July 2018, the organization initiated a series of collaborative platforms that include road shows, Sports for Peace concerts and peace concerts. The concerts provided an opportunity for aspiring candidates to pledge for peace publicly and that  commit  to shun political violence. Heal Zimbabwe initiated peace concerts in Bulawayo, Harare, Gwanda, Gweru, Chipinge, Zaka and Gokwe. Several aspiring candidates from various political parties appreciated the importance of peace and vowed to uphold it during their rigorous campaigns. To date, the organisation through its early warning and early response committees has noted that several aspiring candidates in areas where the organisation initiated peace concerts such as Gokwe, Zaka, Chipinge and Bikita have preached peace during their campaigns.

 Added to this, through Youth Sports for Peace tournaments, community peace clubs engaged youths from various political parties who participated in sports for peace tournaments. Peace tournaments were conducted in Tsholotsho, Gokwe, Murehwa, Mutoko, Zaka, Chipinge, Mutasa, Makoni, Rushinga, Bikita and Gutu. At these tournaments, youths were able to build tolerance and discussed its importance ahead of elections. The need to engage youths for peace initiatives was informed by the fact that in past elections, youths have been used as merchants of violence by politicians. Community Peace clubs have reported that youths from various areas where peace tournaments were conducted, have embraced peace tournaments and have been carrying  out regular sports for peace tournaments in a bid to build peace ahead of the elections.

 As a way of responding to reports from various local communities where they fingered some Traditional Leaders as perpetrators of human rights violations ahead of elections, the organisation conducted several Traditional leaders trainings in areas such as Mazowe, Muzarabani, Mbire, Bikita, Zaka, Mutasa and Mutoko. The objective of the trainings were to conscientize Traditional leaders on the importance of peace and their constitutional responsibilities   such as  not violating the fundamental human rights and freedoms of any person as enunciated  in Section 281 (d) of the constitution. Generally, some of the Traditional leaders highlighted that the incessant pressure from some political parties forced them to engage in human rights violations and further highlighted that in some cases they have been threatened that if they fail to comply with directives, they were going to lose their posts. The majority of traditional leaders promised to encourage people within their villages to promote peaceful coexistence.

 As the nation goes for polls tomorrow, Heal Zimbabwe continues to call on political parties to shun violence and adhere to principles set out in the Political Parties code of conduct that criminalize acts of intimidation and violence. Political parties must also enforce the peace pledge that was facilitated by the NPRC in a bid to promote collective prevention of violence and conflicts as a strategy for promoting lasting peace. Heal Zimbabwe through its national peace campaign dubbed, 13 Million Voices for Peace will continue to campaign rigorously for peace even after the 2018 plebiscite.

Heal Zimbabwe recorded a total of 82 human rights violations from 23 districts. Bikita, Hurungwe and Buhera recorded the highest number of human rights violations with 10 cases each. Bikita and Buhera recorded the highest number of human rights violations in the previous report together with Muzarabani, and Mt Darwin which recorded 6 cases each.  The recurrence of human rights violations in Bikita, Mt Darwin and Buhera instill fear among communities which negatively impacts on the free participation and expression of citizens’ rights in the upcoming elections.

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Human Rights Report (1 – 19 July 2018)

On 14  July 2018, Heal Zimbabwe in collaboration with Women Institute for Leadership Development (WILD), Emtonjeni Women’s Forum (EWF), Habakkuk Trust, Christian Alliance, National Youth Development Trust (NYDT), and Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) launched a Get out and Vote campaign in Bulawayo. The objective of the campaign is to mobilize citizens to go out and vote on 30 July 2018 and upholding peace and political tolerance. The campaign launch saw several artists taking part in a peace concert where they also added their voice on the need for peace and tolerance ahead of the 2018 elections. The concert was attended by approximately 5000 people mainly youths.

Before the concert commenced, a representative from Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) took time explain the process of voting and emphasized on the secrecy of the ballot. This helped dispel rumours that characterize the voting process. The major highlight of the concert was when aspiring candidates pledged for peace and vowed to play their part in ensuring that the 2018 elections will be peaceful. The aspiring candidates also encouraged community members to exercise political tolerance and highlighted that this was critical especially during campaigns.”As aspiring candidates let’s encourage our supporters to uphold peace and tolerance. Building peace must be everyone’s responsibility”, said one aspiring candidate. Ordinary citizens particularly youths from various political parties also pledged for peace and vowed to shun violence as elections draw closer.

The launch in Bulawayo come at a time when the organization has intensified its campaigns on peace by using various initiatives such as Sports for Peace Tournaments, collaborative neutral platforms (nhimbes)  and  peace concerts in a bid to raise awareness on the need for peace. These campaigns seek to mobilize citizens to commit and play an active role in ensuring that peace prevails before, during and after the 2018 elections.

 

Heal Zimbabwe notes the increase in cases of violence among political parties as elections draw closer. On 11 July 2018, one person reportedly died while several others were injured when violence broke out in Chitungwiza after suspected ZANU PF activists assaulted residents accusing them of supporting MDC Alliance President, Nelson Chamisa. Heal Zimbabwe has also recorded several cases of assault and intimidation mostly in Masvingo Province, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West. This is despite the fact that political parties participating in the elections signed a peace pledge on 26 June 2018 where they committed themselves to a peaceful campaign before, during and after elections.

Heal Zimbabwe notes that while this was a progressive step aimed at inculcating a culture of peace and tolerance, the escalation of cases of violence is a betrayal of the historic peace pledge by political parties. Political parties must demonstrate sincerity on the need for peace by reigning in on supporters that perpetrate violence that seek to make the peace pledge of no effect.

The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), the broker of the peace pledge must without delay engage multiple stakeholders such as civil society in a bid to insulate citizens against acts of violence and intimidation ahead of the elections. This can be done by swiftly establishing effective early warning and early response systems that will help detect areas of potential conflicts, disputes and take appropriate action in compliance with section 252 (g) of the constitution. While the designating of trial magistrates to deal with cases of politically motivated violence by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is commendable, the magistrates must swiftly begin prosecuting people implicated in   cases of politically motivated violence.

Added to this, there is also need to strengthen multi-party liaison committees right from the ward, district and up to national level. If strengthened, these committees can help minimize cases of violence as they are a form of conflict resolution mechanism among political parties. Further to this, political parties must uphold and adhere to principles set out in the Political Parties code of conduct that criminalizes acts of intimidation and violence.

Youths in Gokwe have vowed to shun political violence and participate in this year’s elections peacefully. This came out during a Sports for Peace tournament conducted by a community peace club that works with Heal Zimbabwe in Gokwe South at Svisvi Primary school on 7 July 2018.

The Sports for peace tournament brought together 10 soccer teams and 4 netball teams that battled it out for the coveted peace cup. Before the tournament kicked off, aspiring candidates took to the podium and took turns to pledge to uphold peace and tolerance before, during and after the 2018 elections. The major highlight of the tournament was when the captains of the participating teams vowed to continue to use sport as a tool to build peace and tolerance as elections draw close. “Thank you Heal Zimbabwe for conducting sports for peace tournaments in our area since 2015.Over the years we have improved our relations and tolerance levels even with teams that we did not get along too well because of different political affiliations. We will continue conducting these Sports for peace tournaments on our own to help preach message of peace”, said one of the team captains.

 Community members who attended the sports tournament also echoed the youths’ sentiments on the need to preach the message of peace and further promised to support the youth’s to achieve such a goal. The sport tournament was conducted under the banner of Heal Zimbabwe’s National Peace Campaign, #13MillionVoicesForPeace, a campaign that seeks to campaign and advocate for peaceful 2018 elections. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness on peace and tolerance ahead of the 2018 elections.

 Heal Zimbabwe will utilize the peace pledges by youths to hold them accountable in the event that they perpetrate violence. The Sports for peace campaign by Heal Zimbabwe come at a time when the organization has intensified its campaign for peace by using sports for peace tournaments and peace concerts in a bid to disperse message of peace and tolerance ahead of the elections. To date the organization has conducted such initiatives in areas such as Murehwa, Chipinge, Mutoko, Zaka, Rushinga, Tsholotsho and other areas.

Heal Zimbabwe has intensified its campaign for peace ahead of the 2018 elections. On the Saturday 30th of June 2018, Heal Zimbabwe trust and its community peace structures conducted a sports for peace tournament in Murehwa North ward 8, at Zhombwe Primary School. The tournament brought various community members from various political persuasions as well as aspiring candidates who led by example by pledging for peace and encouraged peaceful participation in the upcoming elections.

The tournament saw 7 soccer teams and 6 netball teams battling for the Sports for peace trophy. The major highlight of the sports for peace tournament was when all aspiring Council candidates from all political parties pledged for peace and publicly urged community members to shun violence ahead of elections. Speaking at the same occasion, Mashonaland East Proportionate Representative Member of Parliament Ms Spiwe Muchenje (MDC-T), emphasized the importance of peace and tolerance ahead of elections. “I would want to commend all political parties for this historic commitment, I encourage all aspiring candidates to ensure that they uphold their promise on the need to promote peace and tolerance ahead of elections”, she said. All the aspiring candidates who pledged for peace commended Heal Zimbabwe for the initiative and further highlighted that such a move was key in the attainment of peace ahead of elections.

Heal Zimbabwe will utilize the peace pledges to hold aspiring candidates to uphold peace in the event that they renege on their promise to preach message of peace and tolerance ahead of elections. The Sports for peace campaign by Heal Zimbabwe come at a time when the organisation has intensified its campaign for peace by using sports for peace tournaments and peace concerts in a bid to disperse message of peace and tolerance ahead of the elections.

Heal Zimbabwe welcomes the historic signing of the peace pledge by political parties ahead of the 2018 elections. The peace pledge signing arrangement was brokered by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) in a bid to promote inclusive prevention of violence and conflicts as a strategy for promoting lasting peace.

 Heal Zimbabwe notes that this is a positive step towards the attainment of peace ahead of the July 2018 elections and this also affirms an important role which political parties should play in ensuring that peace prevails before, during and after elections. In past violent episodes, political parties have been accused of inculcating a culture of political intolerance amongst their supporters through hate speech and degrading slogans which incite hate and animosity among political players and citizens.

 Heal Zimbabwe further notes that while the signing of the peace pledge is commendable, political parties’ must   also uphold the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates, which seeks to promote conditions that are conducive for free and fair elections and a climate of tolerance in which electioneering activities may take place without fear, coercion, intimidation or reprisals.

 Added to this, Independent Commissions such as the NPRC and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) must, in consultation with civil society and other relevant stakeholders develop mechanisms for early detection of areas of potential conflicts and disputes and take appropriate preventive measures to ensure that the forthcoming elections are conducted in a peaceful environment. Heal Zimbabwe also implores ordinary citizens to uphold peace and shun violence since building peace requires multiple stakeholder participation.

On 23 June 2018 Heal Zimbabwe in collaboration with the Election Resource Centre and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) launched the “Go out and Vote campaign” in Epworth. The objective of the campaign is to mobilize citizens to go out and vote on 30 July 2018 and upholding peace and political tolerance. The campaign launch saw several artists including Winky D, Lady Squanda, Jah Signal, Kinnah and Silent Killer performing.

In his welcome remarks, Heal Zimbabwe Executive Director, Rashid Mahiya highlighted that the purpose of the Go out and Vote campaign was to encourage citizens to go out in their numbers on election day and to vote peacefully. “By launching this campaign, we are encouraging citizens to exercise their constitutional rights such as voting and on30 July 2018, we must all vote in peace”, he said. The campaign is also a follow-on activity to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call for peace during elections which is also in compliance with Section 155 (d) of the constitution that highlights that elections must be free from violence and other electoral malpractices.

The major highlight of the campaign was when all aspiring candidates in Epworth pledged for peace ahead of the 2018 elections. Aspiring candidates who spoke to Heal Zimbabwe welcomed the campaign for peace and highlighted that in the past, Epworth had become a hot bed for political violence. “During electoral periods, political intolerance and violence are the order of the day here in Epworth, but as an aspiring candidate I am very happy that youths are participating in this initiative because in the past, they have been used to perpetrate violence”, said one aspiring candidate. Ordinary citizens particularly youths from various political parties also pledged for peace and vowed to repel forces of political violence as elections draw close.

Heal Zimbabwe and its other partners will also launch a similar campaign in areas such as Masvingo, Bulawayo and Mutare. Further to this, the organization will engage aspiring candidates on the need to campaign aggressively for peace and also hold them accountable if they perpetrate violence before, during and after the 2018 elections. The campaign launch in Epworth come at a time when Heal Zimbabwe and its other partners conducted a peace campaign earlier in the year that was aimed at mobilizing citizens to uphold peace and shun violence ahead of the 2018 elections.

Community structures established by communities that work with Heal Zimbabwe in Zaka, Bikita and Gutu (Masvingo Province) have implored political parties (ZANU PF and MDC-T) to exercise political tolerance and shun violence ahead of the 2018 elections. This was revealed during a series of collaborative platforms conducted in the three areas.

 In the past months, Heal Zimbabwe noted an increase in cases of human rights violations in the three areas that include intimidation and forced attendance to rallies and meetings. To avert this, Heal Zimbabwe community structures that include Community Accountability Action Teams (CAATs) and Women safe spaces for reconciliation (WSSR) conducted collaborative platforms that include clean-up campaigns from the 12th – 15th of June 2018. Two Community Based Organisations (CBOs) from Zaka and Gutu namely Kutatarika Community Based Organisation and Kushinga Community Development Trust respectively, also carried out collaborative platforms to raise awareness on the need for peaceful participation in the upcoming plebiscites.

 The objective of the campaigns was to raise awareness on the importance of peaceful participation in the upcoming harmonised elections scheduled for the 30th of July 2018.The activities targeted community leaders, political parties, youths, men and women and other key stakeholders that include Traditional leaders. The platforms afforded community members an opportunity to discuss the importance of tolerance and prevalence of peace ahead of elections.

 Community members noted that the increase in campaign rallies by political parties has led to an increase in cases of human rights violations especially forced attendance to rallies and intimidation. In most cases, community members noted that Traditional leaders were partisan as they were at the fore front of force-marching people to attend political gatherings as well as threatening to withhold food aid from people who boycott political gatherings. Community members also bemoaned the lack of political intolerance as exhibited during primary elections of political parties particularly ZANU PF and MDC-T. Community members concluded that if political parties fail to reign in on violent supporters, this would jeopardize the conducting of violent-free elections.

 The platforms also allowed community members to share ideas on community protection mechanisms such as reporting cases of human rights violations to responsible authorities such as the police and independent commissions. Some of the resolutions from the platforms include the need for community members to intensify campaigns for peace and work closely with all political parties in a bid to minimize conflicts. Community members also resolved to engage Traditional leaders on the need to shun partisan politics and preach peace. Chief Maworera of Gutu who was part of a collaborative platform in Gutu also appealed to Traditional leaders in his area to promote peace and build peaceful communities. “Traditional leaders must amplify President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call for peace ahead of elections and urge community members to shun violence and promote peace”, he said.

 WSSR and CAATs are also currently conducting door-door campaigns where they are raising awareness on peace and tolerance ahead of elections. Through the door to door exercises, CAATs have managed to reach out to women within their safe spaces and demystify myths around the Biometric Voter Registration exercise. During this exercise, CAATs have noted that a lot of women due to past violent episodes still shy away from participating in electoral processes.

HZT works with diverse groups of rural women all around Zimbabwe and has established WSSR composed of women of different age groups, backgrounds and political persuasions. A CAAT is a safe space group of women and youths from diverse political and socio-economic backgrounds working together to build peace and demand social accountability from duty bearers. communities.

Heal Zimbabwe commends the Judicial Service Commission for designating trial magistrates for politically motivated violence and intimidation cases. The trial magistrates have been distributed across nine provinces. The declaration by the JSC is in terms of Section 133J (3) of the Electoral Act (Chapter2:13). The magistrates will deal with cases before during, and after the harmonized elections.

 Heal Zimbabwe notes that the deployment of trial magistrates is a positive step that will ensure that victims of political violence have access to justice. If the plan is well adhered to, it will help reduce cases of political violence that have been fueled by a culture of impunity especially within local communities.

 However, it is Heal Zimbabwe’s view that appointing trial magistrates ahead of the elections alone is not enough. Addressing political violence requires multiple involvement of stakeholders such as the church, civil society, Independent Commissions such as the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and political parties.

 In light of the above, Heal Zimbabwe implores the JSC to promote and facilitate the independence and accountability of the judiciary and the efficient, effective and transparent administration of justice in Zimbabwe in compliance with section 190 (2) of the constitution. Political parties must also join the crusade of campaigning for peace ahead of elections.

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