Rising political tensions in Mwenezi East constituency worrying
Heal Zimbabwe expresses concern over the increase in cases of voter intimidation in Mwenezi East constituency ahead of the 8 April by election. The intimidation has been mainly targeting opposition party supporters especially those aligned to opposition parties that are taking part in the by election.
On 25 March 2017, Free Zimbabwe Congress party member, Jerry Tsakani was assaulted for wearing his party t-shirt by Stonya Muhango at Neshuro Growth Point in ward 5. Stonya Muhango is a ZANU PF youth chairperson for Mwenezi East District. Tsakani reported the matter at Neshuro police station leading to the arrest of Stonya Muhango. Before the incident, Stonya Muhango was also seen defacing campaign posters for National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) candidate in the by election, Welcome Masuku at Neshuro growth point.
In Ward 7, On 26 March 2017, Village head Neshuro deployed a team of ZANU PF youths who moved in the ward forcing people to pay 2kg mealie meal and $1 towards ZANU PF candidate Joosbi Omar’s rally that will be held at Kuwirirana ward centre on 29 March 2017.Village head Neshuro also announced that people who would fail to pay or donate towards the rally were not going to receive any food aid that will be distributed at the rally by Omar.
In Ward 13, on 26 March 2017, Headman Chipepetseke also deployed several ZANU PF youths who embarked on a door to door exercise in the ward writing down names of people perceived to be opposition party members. The youths threatened people with violence and withdrawal of food aid in the event that ZANU PF candidate in the by election Joosbi Omar loses the election.
Heal Zimbabwe notes that such practices and threats ahead of the by election, are a total disregard of constitutional provision 67 which provides for political rights. The said provision states that “every citizen has the right to form, join and to participate in the activities of a political party of their choice”. Section 156 of the constitution also compel Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to eliminate electoral violence and other electoral malpractices.
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.