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Update: Mega Rallies for Bikita By-Election: Peaceful or Violent?

With 09 days left before voting day, preparations for the Bikita West by-election are intensifying as the 6 contesting candidates conduct numerous rallies and meetings. Candidates across the political divide have scheduled a series of rallies with ZANU PF National Political Commissar Saviour Kasukuwere announcing that his party has lined up several rallies beginning on the 12th of January 2017, having conducted their first mega rally attended by VP Mnangagwa on the 4th of January 2017 at Nyika Growth Point. Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) has scheduled a campaign rally at Nyika Growth Point on the 19th of January 2017 where party president Joyce Mujuru is expected to address.

Heal Zimbabwe continues to receive reports of harassment and intimidation of opposition supporters by suspected ZANU PF followers. The forms of violations recurring in Bikita include defacing of campaign posters, intimidation with threats of violence, vote-buying, partisan distribution of agricultural inputs.  These violations are most prevalent in 9 of the 11 wards.

Heal Zimbabwe has carried out peacebuilding programs in Bikita and continues to urge politicians and citizens to conduct themselves peacefully. We credit the absence of open violence to active citizen monitoring and reporting of the violations among many other factors. As we count down to the Bikita West By-Election, Heal Zimbabwe continues to monitor the electoral environment. Below are some of the specific violations recorded from different wards in the constituency:

Bikita ward 19

On the morning of 4 January 2017,  ZANU PF youths embarked on a door to door campaign forcing people to attend a ZANU PF campaign rally that was addressed by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa at Gwindingwi High School grounds. At the rally, ZANU PF youths who were responsible for controlling the crowd told people that no one was going to leave the rally until the rally was over. The youths also threatened to assault anyone who would dare walk away while Mnangagwa was addressing. The rally was attended by Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister, Shuvai Mahofa, ZANU PF Politburo member, Josiah Hungwe and ZANU PF National Political Commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere. In her address, Mahofa urged people to vote “wisely’ and took time to remind people of past violence episodes. She also told people that the violence was justified because people had made a choice not to vote for ZANU PF.

Bikita West ward 32

ZANU PF Women’s league chairperson for ward 32, Mrs Idah Ushe, called for a ward 32 women’s meeting at Makotore business centre on the 9th of January 2017. At the meeting, attended by more than 250 women, she openly told the women that a ZANU PF election loss will lead to election violence of the 2008 proportion. The villagers were instructed to take voter registration slips to their village heads in whose company they should vote on election day.

On the 11th of January 2017, in Bikita West ward 32,  ZANU PF supporters only identified as Mrs Makumbame, and Mr Makurire conducted door to door visits reminding people of the 2008 political violence that occurred and urged people  to vote  for ZANU PF if they want to “save” themselves from political violence.

Bikita west ward 9

ZANU PF candidate Beauty Chabaya and ZANU PF Bikita South legislator Jeppy Jaboon addressed a rally on the 10th of November 2016 at Bikita business centre. In her address, Beauty Chabaya highlighted that people will get more agricultural inputs if they vote for her in the by election. Jeppy Jaboon highlighted that all the people present at the rally should be ZANU PF card carrying members. He then forced people to purchase ZANU PF membership cards for a $3 fee. He further announced that those that would fail to pay money at the rally will be considered sell-outs and ordered ZANU PF youths to move around monitoring the process. Jeppy Jaboon further highlighted that people should vote “wisely” or else violence will be unleashed to all those who vote against ZANU PF.

Bikita West ward 5, 30 and 13

Campaign posters belonging to National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) candidate Madock Chivasa were defaced at Makuvaza business centre, an area close to Bikita Minerals and Duma residential area in Nyika Growth point on the 8th of January 2017 by unidentified youths.

Bikita West ward 9

Posters belonging to National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) candidate Madock Chivasa were defaced at an area close to Chirumba Secondary School. Identified ZANU PF youths who include Tererai Chimbande and former councillor Peter Munhande were seen defacing the posters on the 8th of January 2017. The case was reported to the police but no arrests have been made.

Bikita ward 11, 12

Posters belonging to Independent candidate, Heya Shoko and NCA candidate Madock Chivasa were defaced and removed in the two wards.

Bikita ward 22

On 7 January 2017, the ZANU PF candidate, Beauty Chabaya addressed a rally at Gangarahwe business centre where she distributed agricultural inputs from the Presidential inputs scheme. At the rally she told people that if they wanted to continue enjoying peace in the area, they should vote for her resoundingly in the by election.