2023 elections: ZESN preelection report

By Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)

Political Developments

There has been an increase in the frequency of rallies across the country and across the political party divide. ZANU-PF has held star rallies in Magunje, Mashonaland West Province; Chipinge, Manicaland; Bulilima in Matabeleland South; Zaka, Masvingo Province; Centenary, Mashonaland Province and Cowdray Park, Bulawayo Metropolitan Province and Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, Mashonaland East Province.

CCC has so far held star rallies in Gweru, Midlands Province, Chegutu, Mashonaland West Province, Marondera, Mashonaland East Province and Nyanga South Hauna Growth Point, Manicaland Province. Political parties are campaigning through the distribution of party regalia, posters and door-to-door strategies. In Glen View, ZANU-PF distributed regalia to its members and supporters.

ZESN members reported that the rallies have been largely peaceful, except for a few isolated events, where pockets of violence have been reported, for example; in Mabvuku-Tafara Constituency a group of ZANU-PF supporters attempted to disrupt a CCC meeting on the 15th of July 2023. Police moved in and maintained peace. (Seven) 7 CCC rallies scheduled to take place in Gokwe South, Chivi, Zaka, Mazowe Central, Chikombedzi, Bindura, Chiredzi Central were banned for various reasons, chief among them failure to meet MOPA regulations and lack of security personnel by the ZRP. For Chivi and Zaka, police banned the rallies with stringent conditions such as no sloganeering, canvassing for and bussing in supporters making it difficult for CCC to hold its campaign rallies.

On 5 July 2023, a rally pencilled to be held in Chiredzi was barred and 8 activists were arrested. On Police abruptly stopped a rally which Nelson Chamisa was addressing at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka on 6 July 2023. Aspiring CCC MPS Martin Mureri of Masvingo Urban and Pedzisai Gasva of Masvingo West were on 12 July 2023 fined US$30 each after being arrested while conducting door to door campaigns. On 9 July 2023, the High Court upheld a ban on the planned campaign launch by main opposition party CCC, the third of its rallies to be banned as its leader Nelson Chamisa faces hurdles on his campaign trail.

CCC was scheduled to hold its campaign launch in Bindura on 9 July 2023, but police banned the gathering citing ablution problems with the venue, impassable roads and safety concerns for those attending. The police also said there was a “high risk” of the spread of communicable diseases. CCC lawyers filed an urgent application at the High Court on challenging the police decision, but a Judge referred the matter back to the lower court. Bindura Magistrate Mary Musika then upheld the ban, saying CCC had failed to notify the police on time. On 10 July 2023, CCC was denied authorisation to hold a Roadshow in Zengeza East Constituency on the basis that the request did not meet the requirements of Section 7 of the MOPA.

On 3 August 2023, CCC failed to hold its rally in Glen View South, Harare Metropolitan Province following a fatal attack of one of its supporters from suspected political assailants. So far ZANU-PF has held (eight) 8 star rallies without hiccups from the law enforcement agency. On the contrary CCC has held (five) 5 rallies.  

Political Party Manifestos

Despite the holding of the star rallies graced by thousands of supporters, most of the political parties and candidates do not have succinct manifestos, if they do, they have not been made public and most of the political parties are less programmatic based as there are no clear ideologies. Furthermore, most political parties are either personality based or clientelistic. Personality-based parties are characterised by popularity of a single leader; have no clear ideology or policy platform; they focus on promoting the image of their leaders and appealing to voter’s emotions and are often successful in countries with a weak tradition of political participation.

Clientelistic Parties on the hand, provide material benefits to their supporters in exchange for their votes; these benefits can include party regalia, food and aid or other forms of assistance and are often successful in countries with high levels of poverty and inequality. Concerns on the involvement of Traditional Leaders in politics continue to be expressed. In a statement, the ZHRC said political parties should desist from using Traditional Leaders to further their political interests. Traditional Leaders who are custodians of decisive rural constituencies are still brazenly partisan.

Peace Pledges

Zimbabweans fear becoming victims of political violence in the upcoming harmonised elections. A new Afro barometer survey conducted by Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) revealed that at least 70% are afraid of potential violence. On 19 July 2023, the three (3) main Political parties; ZANU-PF, CCC and MDC-T signed the peace pledge ahead of elections order to curb electoral violence. ZESN welcomes the public commitment to ensuring peaceful elections by the political parties as a positive development which supports the creation of an environment that facilitates the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms by citizens.

Zimbabwe elections have been marred by incidents of intimidation and violence against citizens and observers as well as sporadic instances of inter and intra political as well as electoral violence whose effects have been democratic deficit due to fear and trauma to participate in elections leading to voter apathy. It is imperative that the political parties abide by the Peace Pledge as well as the Political Parties Code of Conduct.

On 20 July 2023, ZANU-PF, CCC, FREEZIM Congress, MDC-T and student union leaders endorsed the Zimbabwe Youth Charter on Peace in Electoral Processes and Peace Pledge. The youth peace pledge is a step in the right direction against the backdrop that the youth are often coerced by the political leadership to play a role in mobilising and channelling youthful political participation to further their political interests. On the other hand, the youth have also been victims of political violence. Despite signing the peace pledges, ZESN has observed bouts of hate speech and political intolerance suggestive of animosity fanning among political party supporters which impede free, fair and credible elections. Isolated cases of inter-political party violence are sprouting in some parts of the country.

Inter and intra-political party violence

On 9 July 2023, a ZANU-PF supporter was beaten up for wearing his party T-shirt at Barbour Fields Stadium in Bulawayo Central Constituency. On the same day, in a case of suspected intra-party violence in St Mary’s Constituency Chitungwiza, aspiring parliamentary candidate Brighton Mazhindu’s son was assaulted at his home by CCC supporters belonging to Freddy Masarirevu led faction. On 19 July 2023, a car belonging to Mwenezi West independent candidate, Tafadzwa Shumba was hijacked at gun point, burnt to ashes and later dumped at a nearby mountain near Madhakiwe dam.

On 25 July a bomb device was thrown at the home of St Mary’s MP candidate Brighton Mazhindu by suspected political opponents either belonging to CCC rival faction led by Freddy Masarirevu or ZANU-PF supporters. The Bomb Disposal & Forensics Units attended the scene for investigations. On 28 July 2023, ZESN members reported that two (2) CCC houses were destroyed in an arson attack in Ward 3, Chiweshe Mazowe Central in Mashonaland Central Province.

On the same day, a cattle kraal and goat pen belonging to a CCC activist was set on fire in Musonza village Ward 3. 20 On 29 July 2023, ten (10) homes and livestock belonging to ZANU-PF Hanke-B District Chairwoman Anna Mangena and five (5) party supporters were set on fire suspected political arsonists in Hanke Shurugwi Midlands Province. Police have since arrested two people in connection with the incident who were spotted running away from the crime scene. On 3 August 2023, Tinashe Chitsunge a CCC member died following a violent incursion near Tanaka grounds in Glenview 7 Harare Metropolitan Province. Twelve suspects have since been arrested in connection with the violence.

On 4 August 2023, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage issued a press statement condoning political violence orchestrated by individuals and groupings operating under the guise of political campaigning. The Ministry also revealed that ZRP has been instructed to arrest perpetrators of violence without fear or favour. It is against this backdrop that ZESN recommends the need to monitor, come up with methodologies to mitigate against electoral related violence and encourage peace by all stakeholders and availing of more voter education on peacebuilding initiatives, constitutional literacy awareness on the civil and political rights.

Erection of Billboards

Presidential candidate Saviour Kasukuwere‘s campaign team mounted several billboards in Harare and other towns and cities, notably, the one erected along Simon Mazorodze Road in Harare. In response, on 18 July 2023, Mashonaland Provincial Road Engineer issued a memo advising all advertising agencies to first seek the approval of the contents of any advert before erecting a billboard on any state highway. Prior to this memo being issued, election candidates did not have to seek permission to put up campaign posters on national highways.

Inclusion of special groups

Recognition of PWDs has been noted at rallies but only witnessed when they were given priority to sit in front at rallies (CCC and ZANU-PF) Bulawayo, PWDs remain disenfranchised from accessing voter education materials from the ZEC social media accounts. The limited availability of inclusive information dissemination techniques impacts negatively on the participation of marginalized groups.

Election Observers to the 2023 polls

On 8 July 2023 ZEC held the first observer briefing meeting in Harare where only accredited observers and journalists with accreditation cards were allowed to attend. Election observers play an important role in appraising the electoral process from the beginning to the end, including voter registration, campaigning, voting, vote counting, and the announcement of results to ensure that elections are free, fair and credible. They also report on any irregularities or violations of electoral laws and regulations that they observe during the electoral process; promoting transparency by providing public reports on their observations and recommendations for improving the electoral process, and promoting trust and confidence in the electoral process by providing impartial and unbiased reports on the conduct of elections.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button