Heal Zimbabwe calls for peace ahead of the Norton by-election.

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Heal Zimbabwe calls for peace ahead of the Norton parliamentary by-election to be conducted on 22 October 2016. Recent episodes of violence that have started to manifest ahead of the by-election are a cause for worry and concern as they are likely to compromise the prevalence of peace ahead of the plebiscite.

The continued increase in cases of harassment of supporters linked to Independent candidate Temba Mliswa is worrying. On the 15thof October 2016, ZANU PF supporters disrupted a rally at Ngoni stadium where Mliswa was supposed to address. This was despite the fact that the High court had granted Mliswa a court order for the rally to take place. When Mliswa arrived at the stadium, police officers were blocking the entrance. The police did not even relent after he showed them a High court order. They instead started firing tear smoke on the supporters who had gathered outside waiting to attend the rally. After this incident, Mliswa’s campaign motor vehicle was stoned by ZANU PF youths while 10 of his supporters were arrested.

This incident comes hardly a week after ZANU PF youths assaulted Natasha Bakalia, an 18 year old because her mother supports Temba Mliswa. Added to this, the run up to the by-election has seen ZANU PF setting up a torture base at a car park close to Ngoni stadium that has become a place used to torture and harass opposition supporters linked to Mliswa. All this  indicates that the playing field is not even for all political parties.

Section 155 of the Zimbabwean Constitution which outlines the Principles of the Electoral System states that, “elections must be peaceful, free and fair and free from violence and other electoral malpractices”. Section 156 of the constitution also compel Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to eliminate electoral violence and other electoral malpractices. Therefore, the reported incidences show that the pre-election activities in Norton go against the provisions that guarantee the holding of free and fair elections. These irregularities greatly compromise the outcomes of the scheduled vote. Heal Zimbabwe call upon the candidates in the by-election to refrain from using violence as a tool to garner support.

As a result of the above issues, Heal Zimbabwe also implores the Government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to ensure a fair playing field ahead of the by-election. This, therefore, involves ZEC ensuring that it investigates incidences of intimidation by political players ahead of the election and take necessary measures to guarantee a level electoral playing field.

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