Human rights lobby group, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged President Mnangagwa to level the electoral playing field by preventing the military from engaging in partisan politics or interfering in electoral processes saying it affects the right of Zimbabweans to vote for the candidates of their choice.
Addressing the media in the capital today, Human Rights Watch Southern Africa Director Dewa Mavhinga said the military should not interfere in politics by resorting to violence and intimidation during the election campaign period.
“Zimbabwe’s military and other state security forces have for many years interfered in the nation’s political and electoral affairs, adversely affecting the right of Zimbabweans to vote for the candidates of their choice.
“Mnangagwa and his administration should level the electoral playing field by preventing the military from engaging in partisan politics or interfering in electoral processes and taking strong action to deter violence and intimidation by the military during the campaign period and elections.
“The military leadership should publicly demonstrate its commitment to a fair election process and not interfere with the outcome of the vote,” he said.
His remarks follow sentiments by the visiting U.S Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs, Ambassador Matthew Harrington who told journalists in Harare on Thursday that the upcoming elections are a watershed moment in the shaping of the Zim-US relations, which have been getting better since November 2017 when the Mnangagwa administration took over.
“The government should ensure that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is free from political interference and partisanship. It should ensure that all political parties are allowed to campaign freely and have equitable access to state media. Security force members should play no role in administering the election or intimidation or harassing voters and that there should be full transparency around the voters roll and the production of the ballot papers,” said Ambassador Harrington.
Mavhunga further noted that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should be independent and professional and military personnel employed by the electoral management body should be removed.
“The role of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which is charged with overseeing the 2018 election process, is also of particular concern. The commission has not demonstrated independence or impartiality.
Recently, ZEC Chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba revealed that 15% of its employees are former military officials, a revelation which raised alarm from the electorate.
“The military should help make the commission more independent and professional by removing serving military officers from the body,” said Mavhunga.
Mavhinga noted that government’s failure to revise key laws or to address the partisan conduct of the police further undercuts free elections.
“The government’s failure to repeal or significantly revise key laws or to address the partisan conduct of the police further undercuts free elections. Repressive laws needing reform include the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
“All of these laws have been used to arrest peaceful protesters and censor critical media,” he said.