Two billboards promoting Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa in Bulawayo were vandalised overnight.
One billboard on 15th Avenue, opposite the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre, was seriously damaged, while the other in Queens Park East Suburb was also vandalised.
CCC official Swithern Chirowodza described the acts as arson claiming the suspects used petrol bombs, which should have attracted the attention of police but that was not the case.
“The use of fires to destroy property would under normal circumstances have attracted the attention of police and the army but it has not. We have been watching the situation since morning and there has been no reaction from the security sector. That on its own tells us a story,” he said in an interview with CITE.
According to Chirowodza, the modus operandi which includes the use of an accelerant in burning the billboards speaks to impunity by assailants who presumably are immune to prosecution.
“The arson from our point of view, that is judging from the debris left on the crime scene, is a notch above ordinary civilian capability,” claimed the provincial spokesperson.
The provincial spokesperson added the destruction of opposition billboards was not a new strategy, claiming such sabotage goes way back to 2008 with the assistance State agents.
“In 2008, (a party member -Helen Zivire but known as) Tsepiso Mpofu was forced to swallow a whole campaign poster by the Central Intelligence Operatives (CIO) stationed at Bulawayo’s Magnet House. We have always believed RIGHT OR WRONG that sabotage and arsonists of property belonging to the opposition has the backing of state security,” Chirowodza claimed.
Section 152 of the Electoral Act on the Destruction of political posters, states that “Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level ten or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
“(1) Subject to subsection (2), from the date on which an election is called until its result is declared, no person shall deface or remove any billboard, placard or poster published, posted or displayed by a political party or candidate contesting the election.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to the removal or defacement of a billboard, placard or poster by or at the direction of—
(a) the person who published, posted or displayed it; or
(b) the owner or occupier of the land or premises on which it is published, posted or displayed in contravention of Section 153.”
Section 153 on Defacing property for political purposes states “(1) Any person who, with the object of supporting or opposing any political party, political cause or candidate, whether or not in reference to any election, places any bill, placard, poster, pamphlet, circular or other document, writing or painting on, or otherwise defaces, any house, building, wall, fence, lamp-post, gate or elevator without the consent of the owner or occupier thereof, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level fourteen or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”