In the lead-up to the highly anticipated by-election in Gutu West constituency, concerns have been raised by human rights watchdogs over a disturbing surge in political violence targeting opposition supporters.
As citizens prepare to cast their votes tomorrow, the situation has heightened tensions and cast a shadow over the democratic process.
Originally scheduled for August 23, the by-election was postponed due to the unfortunate passing of Christopher Mutonhori Rwodzi, an independent candidate. Now, the electorate will have the opportunity to choose their representative from a pool of contenders, including John Paradza from the ruling party, Ephraim Morudu of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Sebastian Mudzingwa as an independent candidate, and Robson Kurwa representing the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
Alarming reports indicate that ZANU PF activists have been identified as the primary perpetrators of these acts of political violence by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights). This revelation has prompted widespread condemnation from both local and international human rights organizations, who assert that such violence undermines the fundamental rights of citizens to freely participate in political activities and make independent choices.
ZimRights, in a strongly worded statement, condemned these acts of political intimidation, emphasizing that they violate the constitutional right to form, join, and engage in the activities of a political party, as enshrined in section 67 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution. The organization has called for an immediate end to the violence and for those responsible to be held accountable for their actions.
Former opposition MPs Sesel Zvidzai and Evelyn Masaiti have also expressed their dismay at the situation, accusing ZANU PF of orchestrating these violent incidents. They allege that ZANU PF thugs, often transported in trucks, have been targeting the residences and business premises of individuals believed to be active members of opposition parties. Such tactics not only instil fear but also undermine the principles of a fair and peaceful election process.
However, John Paradza, the ZANU PF candidate, has dismissed these allegations as baseless and politically motivated. He believes that the CCC, aware of its impending defeat, is resorting to tarnishing the reputation of his party. Paradza expressed gratitude for the unwavering support he has received from ZANU PF and the constituents in Gutu West.
As the by-election day approaches, it is essential for all stakeholders, including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, law enforcement agencies, and political parties, to work together to ensure a safe and peaceful electoral environment. The incidents of political violence in Gutu West constituency underscore the need for strengthened measures to protect the rights of citizens to express their political choices freely, without fear of intimidation or retribution.
Political violence not only undermines the democratic process but also erodes public trust in the electoral system. The eyes of the nation are now fixed on Gutu West constituency, awaiting the outcome of this crucial by-election. The hope is that the principles of fairness, transparency, and respect for human rights will prevail, allowing the citizens of Gutu West to exercise their democratic right and shape the future of their constituency through peaceful and inclusive elections.