Tolerance is the hallmark of Elections.
Heal Zimbabwe expresses grave concern over the continued disruption of the Election Resource Centre(ERC) coordinated Parliamentary electoral reforms hearings that are currently taking place across the country. Today, 28 October 2016, a public hearing process was disputed in Bulawayo by suspected ZANU PF officials. On 27 October 2016, some suspected ZANU PF supporters also disrupted another electoral reforms public hearing at Beit hall, Dangamvura in Mutare. The supporters reportedly assaulted the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Honourable, Jessie Majome.
This disruption follows a now too familiar and unacceptable trend of similar disruptions, which exhibit unmitigated intolerance of democratic parliamentary processes denying citizens’ input into national laws and policies. Other violent disruptions were witnessed in Mutoko, district in Mashonaland East province. Similarly, in June 2016, ZANU PF youths disrupted a public hearing on the Local Government Law Amendment Bill in Harare. Earlier in the year on 15 and 16 April, ZANU PF youths disrupted National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) bill public hearings in Bindura and Chinhoyi respectively. In all the recorded incidents above, no arrests were made.
Heal Zimbabwe notes that citizens’ constitutional rights to participate in making laws that govern them is critical as it enhances their active participation in national democratic processes. In the spirit of implementation of section 141 of the Constitution, which compels Parliament to facilitate public involvement in its legislative process, it is important to ensure citizens participate freely without fear.
Heal Zimbabwe contends that this culture of violence and intolerance has been perpetuated by the state over the years through either pardoning or failing to hold perpetrators to account. This has compromised the integrity of state institutions responsible for upholding and protecting citizens and the constitution. This negatively impacts citizens’ confidence in both national democratic institutions and processes, further excluding and alienating a significant percentage of the country’s population.
It is Heal Zimbabwe’s position that in order to deal with the unacceptable anomaly that elections have become synonymous with violence, past perpetrators of violence should be held to account and face justice. Government should ensure the full operationalization of a professional, independent, non-partisan, adequately funded National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) in order to comprehensively deal with issues of past human rights violations. The NPRC should deal with a culture of impunity through truth recovery, prosecutions, reparations and restorative justice. The commission must also ensure institutional reforms to restore citizen confidence in state institutions and create conditions for guarantee of non-recurrence.