ZGC condemns violence against female politicians

The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has noted with concern the deliberate and targeted abuse at women especially those in politics, saying such violence would most likely discourage female participation in politics.

The commission’s sentiments come after the assault of Dr Thokozani Khupe, who ran as a party presidential candidate during the MDC-T’s Extra Ordinary Congress held in Harare on December 27, 2020.

Dr Khupe was slapped by suspected party members after she moved in to stop the electoral process citing fraud and manipulation of the voters roll.

“We note with increasing concern the conscious targeting of women in hate speech, inflammatory language and cyber bullying. Such assaults, regardless of the context or the intended target, are an infringement on the rights to personal security as well as freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources as espoused in Section 52 of the Constitution. The same sections uphold the rights to bodily and psychological integrity and ZGC therefore condemns the assault,” said the commission in a statement.

ZGC added that the Electoral Code of Conduct, Section 5 stated that no political party, any of its members or supporters were to use violence, intimidate or incite or encourage the use of violence, against anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party or participation in elections or in a way that may provoke violence or intimidation.

“We are concerned with the fact that the violence was directed at an influential woman and is likely to discourage women’s participation in politics and decision making which the commission has been actively promoting. Women will not equally contest in elections as long as the environment is marred with violence in all its forms,” the commission noted.

As one of the Chapter 12 institutions mandated with the promotion of democracy , human rights and constitutionalism in section 232, ZGC unreservedly condemned any violence in all its forms regardless of the perpetrator  or the target.

“We reiterate our call for collective responsibility in finding alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. We therefore urge the following upon the government, political parties and media respectively to publicly declare commitment to upholding constitutional provisions in dealing with alleged gender based violence and conduct an investigation into circumstances surrounding the case in a transparent and accountable manner to curtail speculation,” said the commission.

During the run up to elections in 2018, women across different political lines, either running as councillors, parliamentarians or presidential candidates, bore the brunt of political violence as they were subject to intimidation, harassment, social media attacks and physical violence during campaigning.

This is not the first time for Dr Khupe to fall victim as in 2018 when she announced her wish to lead the MDC-T after Morgan Tsvangirai’s death, she attracted violent attacks and threats were made on her life.

Former Vice President and National People’s Party leader and People’s Rainbow Coalition presidential candidate, Joice Mujuru was also threatened and faced attacks both offline and online.

Former First Lady, Grace Mugabe also encountered violence from opponents and ordinary people who threatened her after allegations that she wanted to take over after her late husband, Robert Mugabe during his reign while she held her ‘Meet the People’ Tours across the country.

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