The majority Zimbabweans now view elections as a declaration of war on citizens because of their violent nature, an MDC-T MP has said.
MP for Nkulumane Thamsanqa Mahlangu told Parliament that MDC-T was ready for elections any time provided there was a conducive environment for such a process.
Mahlangu, who was presenting his maiden speech in response to a motion on the Presidential speech, said most Zimbabweans now viewed elections as war and that they could only feel safe if the elections were held under the observation of human rights defenders.
“My party is ready for elections any time as long as a conducive environment is created for such a process,” said Mahlangu.
“We all know that violence during elections, rigging of elections, fear of power transfer and an unclear voters’ roll were some of the issues that gave birth to this conflict which has cost the nation of Zimbabwe so much.”
Mahlangu said elections were meant to be a democratic process and yet in Zimbabwe they reminded the people of war.
“They are viewed as a declaration of war against all people, which should be taken with the seriousness it deserves by human rights defenders in the country and the world over,” said Mahlangu.
Last year, during debate on a motion on violence perpetrated in the June 2008 presidential run-off elections, MDC-T Chief Whip Innocent Gonese said elections should not be viewed like a war in Zimbabwe, but a process where people peacefully exercised their rights to vote.
Mahlangu said elections would only be welcome in Zimbabwe when violence had ceased to be a custom.
He said the three principals to the Global Political Agreement President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara should take collective responsibility to end violence and not concentrate on mere politicking.
“We need to stop hate speech, biased public media, jingles and a voters’ roll that still carries names of our great-grandfathers who died in 1982. We need institutional and legislative reforms, including the demilitarisation of the electoral process to ensure the elections are not disputed,” said Mahlangu.
He continued: “We also need to repeal draconian laws such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which makes it difficult for parties and candidates to organise and campaign freely and muzzles journalists while killing citizens’ freedom of speech.”
Mahlangu said the setting-up of a Human Rights Commission was welcome as it would be a watchdog of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.
“If it is given autonomous space to operate and teeth to bite, it will go a long way in ensuring that those who commit crimes against humanity are made accountable and punished,” said Mahlangu.
He said the Zimbabwe Media Commission would also go a long way in protecting and safeguarding the rights of journalists and ensuring that freedom of speech was not curtailed.