Escalation of political violence worrisome as national polls beckon

By William Milasi

Zimbabweans are entering the 2023 polls in trepidation if the demon of violence is not exorcized before the crunch elections scheduled for mid this year civil society organisations contend.

Recently suspected Zanu PF supporters in Murehwa were captured on video bludgeoning elderly opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters in the Mashonaland East District.

The disturbing footages which were splashed on social media has been roundly condemned in the country, leading to the arrest of one suspect in the perpetration of violence by police, while investigations are said to be ongoing.

The law Society of Zimbabwe, (LSZ) opined that what seems to be an escalation of violence ahead of the polls is concerning and have urged,  ”stakeholders to  raise the red flag immediately in order to have such deplorable conduct be nipped in the bud.”

“The scourge of political violence has   continued to be a blot on our electoral processes for decades and given indications of political will to end it, it is important that decisive action be taken to end it,” said the society.

LSZ believes politicians have a critical role to play in ending violence if they show political will not only through, “word but also in deed.”

“Insincere public pronouncements against political violence will not end the vice. Politicians must stop speaking with forked tongues declaring commitment to a violent free election by day while coaxing their supporters to terrorise citizens by night,” said the society.

The clergy under the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) added its voice and said the indiscriminate use of violence in political contestation has seen the senior citizens also falling victim.

 “As the nation heads towards the harmonised elections we urge all political players to desist from the use of violence and the use of young people to commit violent crimes. Violence should not be employed to gain political mileage. The people’s fundamental rights should be respected at all times. Citizens of this nation have rights enshrined in our constitution. Among those rights is the freedom of choice, association and political rights,” the church said.

The men of the cloth have called on political parties to campaign responsibly while selling, “to the people your ideologies and convince them with arguments. As you do so, respect their choices. There is no citizen who should be intimated or coerced and worse still be beaten to make a choice. This speaks against human dignity. As a nation we have in the past seen a lot of violence around elections, let this election be different.”

The bishops added that Zimbabweans are now tired of violent polls.

“The people of this country dream and yearn for is a free, credible and fair election. It’s not the casting of the ballot that ascertains that, it’s the environment we create before, during and after elections. It is therefore incumbent on the government, political parties, and all institutions that we create a level playing field. Equal opportunities should be given to all who want to participate in the coming elections. There should be no fear or favour. Heinous violent crimes as the one captured on the Murehwa video should be condemned by all,” said the clergy.

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