FAZ accused of intimidation and harassment of voters on election day

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has corroborated reports that members of a “shadowy” organisation, Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ), engaged in intimidatory antics in the proximity of multiple polling stations nationwide on Election Day.

The Forum, a coalition of 21 human rights organisations, deployed election observers across Zimbabwe’s 210 constituencies to monitor, document and report on adherence to due process and human rights violations during elections. 

Through its members and accredited local observers, the Forum identified and documented several electoral irregularities.

“The forum received worrying reports of FAZ, a quasi-security intelligence organisation, exhibited intimidatory antics in the proximity of multiple stations nationwide on polling day. Through monitoring the pre-election phase the forum identified the dominance of FAZ in many voters’ intimidation and violence cases,” said the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

“FAZ members set up Exit Poll Survey desks in the proximity of polling stations. They were taking names and identity details of voters before and after voting in some areas like Binga and Norton. There were fierce confrontations between FAZ and citizens.”

Reports of intimidation orchestrated by FAZ were also reported by the Forum’s accredited observers and members in Gokwe Central, Binga Insiza North. Hatfield, Warren Park, Bikita Gwariro, Haig Park Primary School, Nashville High School, Sadza, Chivi North, Nkulumane 10 among a few places 

“Their presence defied the formula communication that had been shared by ZRP declaring that gatherings around polling stations were not permitted on polling day. Intimidation by FAZ cannot be ignored as this brings to question the free aspect of the election,” the Forum stated. 

The Forum also noted incidents of police brutality, misconduct and intimidation directed at citizens and journalists on Election Day.

“Journalists covering Makoni South Constituency were chased away from the polling station by the police. In some instances, the police were allegedly working in cahoots with FAZ members. In Chiredzi West and Nandi Primary School, FAZ and ZRP allegedly chased away journalists. Intimidation by police was also seen in Dangamvura, Ward 7 in Mutare where voters raised an alert that there were two water cannon vehicles at the polling station,” said the organisation.

“The Forum also identified cases of inter-party violence and arbitrary arrests on polling day. In Goromonzi South, it was reported that Zanu PF members attacked the CCC candidate Rueben Chikunod and his chief election against other CCC supporters on August 24, 2023. It is alleged that the CCC chief elections agent was injured and in hospital as a result of the assault.”

The forum noted that CCC supporter Godfrey Chiatake was also allegedly assaulted at the instigation of the aspiring Zanu PF Member of Parliament (MP), Nhatiso Makusha at DA Agritex Hall Bikita West.

“Zanu PF Kwekwe Central Ward 8 local authority aspirant Edu Makomborero Mlambo was allegedly assaulted by CCC members and a police report was filed. Examples of arbitrary arrests include the arrest of Chitungwiza South Constituency MP for CCC  Maxwell Mavhunga in the early hours of August 24, 2023 and citizens who were also arrested on August 23, 202e after they questioned the legality of FAZ operations by in Mutasa and Mutare,” said the organisation.

Also shocking to the Forum was the raid and arrest of 39 civic society members from Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and Election Resource Centre (ERC) on August 24, 2023. Both organisations, which were accredited by ZEC, were operating within their mandate of informing citizens in real time on what was happening on Election Day and conducting parallel tabulation of election results which is legal. 

“From 9 am on August 23, 2023, the arrested persons were being held incommunicado until around midday on August 24 when the ZRP Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi issued a statement confirming their arrest,” said the Forum.

The 39 were charged with contravening Section 66 of the Electoral Act, which criminalises purported publication of results before official announcement.

“It is clear from the proceedings that police officers arrested to investigate and denied arrested persons access to legal counsel for more than 12 hours. The arrested persons were granted US$200 bail each at the Harare Magistrate Court on August 25, 2023, which remains one of the harshest bail set human rights defenders in recent times,” remarked the Forum.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

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

Back to top button