THIS week, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) released its 2021 State of Peace Report based on a survey done in six of the country’s 10 province aimed at gauging the mood of nationals ahead of next year’s general elections.
ZimRights’ findings indicate that many Zimbabweans out there are seriously dreading what is possibly lying ahead for them in a country already deeply troubled by a poorly economy that has made basic survival a real nightmare.
“The leading cause of concern for the participants in the selected areas for the near future is elections in Zimbabwe. In all six areas, participants said elections give them a lot of worry mainly because they are characterised by violence and intimidation. In addition to the violence that accompanies elections, four of the areas believed that the elections will not reflect the will of the people, hence it will be a waste of resources,” ZimRights revealed.
This is more than disturbing, especially coming just about a year from the elections, for so many people to view elections with dread — more so when this very process was one of key burning issues that drove indigenous black people to take up arms to fight a repressive colonial regime that had denied them the right to vote for nearly a century.
While a protracted bloody civil war forced white-rule supremacist to accede to compromise, what really settled the whole conflict was the ballot box in 1980.
Through the ballot box, peace prevailed and Zimbabweans, both black and white, have been living together side by side. The nation even held a referendum in 2013 to endorse a Constitution that set out how this country is supposed to be governed.
Is it then not anomalous that 42 years after winning majority rule and creating a new Constitution, the very same people who fought a bloody war to have the right to vote are now dreading to exercise that right under their very own government and Constitution?
Those who responded to ZimRights’ questionnaire said they feared being intimidated and violently forced to vote for people they would otherwise not vote for if they were given a chance in free and fair elections.
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This is a serious indictment on our government because it should be the one making sure that everyone is protected to freely exercise their right to vote for whosoever they want.
That many Zimbabweans no longer feel safe to exercise a constitutional right to vote simply means the country is now lawless and constitutionalism has been thrown into the dustbin.
This is the very source of the violence that keeps on rearing its ugly head each elections time.
The ruling Zanu PF government has perennially blamed opposition political parties for fomenting electoral violence in the country. It has also repeatedly blamed the opposition and other “saboteurs” for the economic mess the country keeps finding itself in at every turn. It has always been someone else to blame and never the ruling Zanu PF government.
And as we head for another election, Zanu PF has already said, for the umpteenth time, that it is the only party with the sole right to rule this country simply because it was the one which waged the war that liberated this country, yet we all thought this country was a constitutional democracy and not a one-party State.
We feel this kind of mindset, that no one else but Zanu PF should have the chance to lead this country, is the real source of violence in this country.
There can never be real peace and prosperity in a country whose citizens fear to exercise their right to vote for whoever they want. Intimidating and forcing people to endorse the ruling party back into power every five years is the major reason why we keep experiencing this vicious cycle of violence come election time.
The day Zanu PF accepts and comes to terms with the fact that Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy and not a one-party State, electoral violence will cease to be a cause for concern for the country’s citizens.