Community members from Masvingo castigate political parties for violent primary elections……. vow to  intensify peace campaigns ahead of elections

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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.

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