LOCAL human rights watchdog, Heal Zimbabwe Trust, claims that it has been inundated with reports about traditional leaders who were forcing villagers to submit voter registration slips serial numbers in exchange for food aid.
BY SILAS NKALA
“Community members in Gokwe, Mutoko, Murehwa, Mazowe, Makoni and Mbire have expressed concern over the continued involvement of traditional leaders in partisan politics. This came out during a series of collaborative neutral platforms conducted by Heal Zimbabwe under its national peace campaign from March 13 to April 13. The objective of the collaborative platforms [nhimbes] was to raise awareness on the need for peace and tolerance ahead of the 2018 elections,” the trust said in its latest report released yesterday.
HZT called on traditional leaders to shun partisan politics.
The trust said several villagers, who interacted with its officials, revealed that although they had reported some traditional leaders to the local police, this had not deterred them.
“This is besides the fact that Section 281.1(d) of the Constitution points out that traditional leaders must not violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person”.
The trust said communities were now living in fear and were worried that the secrecy of voting will be compromised as elections draw near.
“Heal Zimbabwe implores the ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to rein in on errant traditional leaders who are meddling in partisan politics and violating fundamental human rights and freedoms of citizens. Added to this, political parties must desist from abusing traditional leaders but rather use them as avenues to build tolerance and social cohesion in local communities. HZT has since forwarded all cases of human rights violation to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission,” HZT said.
The human rights watchdiog, through its 15 Community Peace Clubs, seven Women Safe Space for Reconciliation and two Community Based Organisations from the targeted districts, mobilised community members to participate in nhimbes that included harvesting of crops, road gully filling and clean-up campaigns at schools and business centres.
The trust said the nhimbes were attended by nine village heads, three headmen, two councillors, eight Ward Development Committee members and 11 Village Development Committee members.
“A total of 880 community members were reached through the activities conducted. The nhimbes were conducted under Heal Zimbabwe’s National Peace Campaign: 13 Million Voices for Peace, which seeks to raise public awareness on the need for peaceful participation in the upcoming 2018 elections,” the report read.