SOME 20 of the 23 presidential candidates contesting next month’s general elections, yesterday signed a peace pledge, binding themselves to a code of conduct compelling them to campaign peacefully.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The peace pledge document was prepared by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) as part of efforts to promote a peaceful campaign environment ahead of elections set for July 30.
Zanu PF presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa, his MDC-T and MDC Alliance counterpart Nelson Chamisa and leader of the leader of the smaller MDC-T party faction Thokozani Khupe did not attend the event, but had their officials sign the document on their behalf.
MDC-T national chairperson Morgen Komichi, who signed on behalf of Chamisa, said Zimbabweans had suffered State-sponsored violence for the past 38 years, adding that going forward the government must take responsibility for peace.
“We as the opposition have no responsibility to make or break peace, unless government authorises it. The other stakeholder to peace is the army, and they must not be used to deny the people’s will when a man who has never gone to war wins the elections. At independence, he was two years old and he could have gone to war if he were older. So, let us not deny him (Chamisa) if he wins the elections,” Komichi said.
He challenged State security agents and traditional leaders to remain impartial and stop acting as Zanu PF political commissars.
MDC leader Welshman Ncube said peace could only be achieved if those charged with running the elections act in a palpable and fair manner, which ensures access to the voters’ roll to all actors, transparent printing of ballot papers, and thwarting of all forms of voter intimidation like demanding voter registration slips.
“Intelligence officers and soldiers operate to advance political agendas in our communities. As we commit to this peace pledge we hope to see all soldiers withdrawn from the people so that they freely exercise their sovereign right to select a government of their choice,” Ncube said.
Khupe’s deputy, Obert Gutu, said the electorate must be set free from physical, emotional and psychological violence.
Mnangagwa’s representative and Zanu PF secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu declined to comment on accusations that the ruling was behind most of the violence cases in the country.
“In my capacity as Minister of Home Affairs, I pledge government’s commitment to do all to ensure elections are peaceful and devoid of victimisation, harassment and intimidation and allow our citizens to vote for a political party of their choice. You are free to do whatever political activity you want to do without fear of victimisation,” Mpofu said.
Alliance for People’s Agenda president Nkosana Moyo said elections cannot be democratic if people were subjected to intimidation as had been the case in the past 38 years.
The signing ceremony also had its comical side with presidential aspirant Brian Mteki singing before signing the document while other candidates made solidarity speeches which sounded more like campaign speeches.
Francis Danha, leader of the opposition #1980 Freedom Movement briefly disrupted proceedings after he heckled Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba, accusing her of being biased in favour of Zanu PF and refusing to implement reforms demanded by the opposition.
Danha last week also caused a scene when he disrupted a political parties’ meeting organised by Zec.
Chigumba, who remained composed during the drama, later called on political parties to also adhere to the Zec code of conduct.
Representatives of the European Union, United Nations, the Kofi Annan Foundation, Zimbabwe’s chapter 12 commissions, civic society groups and church organisations attended the event.