Human rights groups concerned over Hurungwe poll violence

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TWO human rights groups, Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT), have expressed concern over the alleged escalation of political violence in Hurungwe West constituency as the ruling party clamps down on its opponents ahead of the June 10 by-election.

BY CHARLES LAITON

The by-election pits former Zanu PF MP Temba Mliswa, who is contesting the seat as an independent, against the ruling party’s Keith Guzah.

In its latest report released last week, ZPP said the situation obtaining in the constituency was no longer conducive for a free and fair election and appealed for the intervention of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to enforce peaceful campaigns.

“Suspected State agents have reportedly been seen in some schools in Hurungwe West in an attempt to intimidate and threaten people to vote for Zanu PF candidate Keith Guzah in the by-election scheduled for June 10,” ZPP said.

The group quoted a member of the public from Ward 17 who said: “They have been beating up people in public to drive the message home that Temba is no longer wanted. It is terrifying because they have been deployed at the school.”

The ZPP said a delegation believed to be from the provincial commissariat, led by people identified simply as Murapa and Gurajena, had threatened villagers from Chirebvu, Makisi, Bvungo and Pongwa with disappearance if they continued supporting Mliswa.

“Three people are reported to have been deployed at every school in Hurungwe West. They identified themselves as war veterans who were conducting anti-Mliswa meetings in villages,” ZPP said.

According to HZT, in separate incidents on April 29 2015 at Sengwe Ward 17, village heads Kapanha and Mangisi were assaulted by known Zanu PF supporters after they were accused of supporting Mliswa.

“On 3 May 2015, military personnel were deployed at Chief Dandawa’s homestead where they are currently camped. They have been intimidating voters by forcing them to vote for Zanu PF candidate for Hurungwe West, Keith Guzah,” HZT said.

“Unregistered twin cab vehicles with unknown personnel are moving from ward to ward threatening villagers with unspecified action in the event that Mr Mliswa wins the by-elections.

“Heal Zimbabwe expresses dismay at how the Constitution is being violated hardly two years after its adoption. The lack of swift response by the responsible authorities, especially the police, on errant violent behaviour by political supporters, especially during elections, continues to be a cause of concern.”

Zanu PF Mashonaland West acting chairperson Ziyambi Ziyambi could not be reached for comment over the rights groups’ reports yesterday.

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