PARLIAMENT has raised questions over the safety of Zimbabweans ahead of the 23 August general election, with legislators challenging Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe to issue a ministerial statement on measures being put in place to ensure a peaceful poll.
Concerns have been raised with Zimbabweans living under the jackboot of authoritarian repression and fear in what has been termed a police state — a country in which people’s peaceful civic activities are strictly controlled by government with the help of a brutal police force.
While people are free to speak and demonstrate in Zimbabwe, their freedom is not guaranteed after the action.
For instance, this week police quashed a oneman protest in Harare at the corner of Josiah Tongogara Avenue and Sam Nujoma Street, savagely and violently assaulting the man, which is unconstitutional.
In terms of the law, police are only allowed to use minimum force to effect arrest. Zimbabweans have always met with teargas and brutal attacks even if they try to peacefully demonstrate against worsening economic, social and political conditions.
More human rights abuses have been reported in the pre-election period. This week in Parliament, Warren Park legislator Shakespear Hamauswa asked the Acting Speaker, William Mutomba, to ensure that Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe present a ministerial statement over police preparedness to guarantee a peaceful election.
“I want to raise an issue with regards to the harmonised elections which are going to be held this year. This was raised before by honourable [Costa] Machingauta who said that the honourable minister of Home Affairs should come to this august House and explain the preparedness of his ministry regarding peaceful elections,” Hamauswa said.
“However, our term is coming to an end and we are left with a few days before we go for elections. The honourable minister has not come to the House to fulfil the request that was raised in this august House that he should explain the state of preparedness of the ministry of Home Affairs and, indeed, the nation for holding peaceful elections.
“I believe that if that is raised, this would allow the people of Zimbabwe to have confidence that elections will be held in a peaceful environment. However, this request has been made three times and it is a request that we ask, Mr Speaker, that before the end of the week, the minister of Home Affairs should give us a ministerial statement on what measures the ministry is putting in place to ensure peaceful elections. We look forward to peaceful elections,” he said.
In response, Mutomba said he would engage Kazembe over an update on preparedness.
“I have two responses: the first one being that if the minister of Home Affairs was to come tomorrow, then I will request that you ask your question during the question-and-answer session because days are moving and we want peace like what His Excellency the President has proclaimed that there should be peace in the nation. “Secondly, if the minister is not coming, we are still going to engage him so that he brings a state of preparedness ministerial speech to the august House so that elections are held in peace,” he said.
Fear has been brewing over safety during the general election, with think-tanks predicting an increase in organised violence and torture.
Murders and arbitrary arrests have also been recorded in the pre-election period, with main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) activists being maimed and killed during and in the aftermath of by-elections held in March.
In May, Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala was convicted, almost a year after his arrest, and slapped with a suspended six-month custodial sentence and a US$600 fine.
Sikhala was however not released from custody, despite spending over 300 days in prison, with the state arguing he has outstanding cases.
Last month, opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume was arrested for leading and organising the 31 July 2020 protests.
He was convicted by Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka and sentenced to 48 months imprisonment, with 12 months suspended. Intimidation by shadowy government and ruling party-linked proxies has also been recorded.
Last week, CCC senior official main Tendai Biti demanded that Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri present a ministerial statement on the role of the shadowy Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) outfit in electoral processes.
Controversy has risen over the establishment of Faz which, as previously reported by The NewsHawks, has taken over electoral processes. The organisation is led by Central Intelligence Organisation co-deputy director-general retired Brigadier-General Walter Tapfumaneyi.
The outfit is not a constitutional or official arrangement, but an underground operational unit campaigning for Mnangagwa and Zanu PF in the 23 August general elections.
While Faz has taken over the running of elections, an investigation by The NewsHawks has shown that it has also been running an intimidation campaign, with three members assigned to each of the country’s wards.
According to an operational Faz document titled Faz Campaign Scope, critical information being collected by the outfit’s agents and informers includes names, addresses, identity numbers and voter registration details at polling station level.
Faz is also counting people at household level before recording the information on their tablets and smartphones.
The information is computed, condensed into data and processed and is seen as crucial in influencing and manipulating the electoral process in favour of Zanu PF through a combination of tactics, including persuasion and intimidation, in some cases.