By Johannes Chin’ombe
Masvingo, October 06, 2016 – RESIDENTS in Masvingo say the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should start encouraging political parties in the country to consider holding joint rallies as a way of curbing political violence which looks set to increase as the country draws closer to the 2018 elections.
There are strong fears current political violence which have seen President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF fingered in most of the violations by rights groups, could turn more bloody in the next coming few months.
Speaking during a meeting hosted by the pro-democracy group, Election Resource Centre at a city hotel, locals took turns to urge political players to consider holding combined rallies.
“Why can’t ZEC implement combined rallies whereby leaders from different political sides address people on one platform?” said one participant.
“This will lessen reports of victimisation especially in rural areas. Victimisation usually comes when people are seen going to opposition party rallies and thus advancing possibilities of politically motivated violence when those being harassed retaliate.”
Another participant added: “In Zaka, we once did this and it worked and the major facilitator for creating the combined campaign platform was Chief Bota. So I think this is quite a good platform if the nation is to curb political violence come 2018.
“Chiefs should also at the same time play a pivotal role in advocating peace and treating political sides at par than being partisan as is the current norm.”
A quarterly political violence report by Human Rights NGO Forum Zimbabwe show that a total of 1 451 cases of political violence were recorded with MDC–T recording 886 victims of political violence.
Added another participant, “Such a platform will also get rid of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) as all parties will stand to be guided on one platform.
“I am also of the opinion that even the so-called partisan media will gate-keep campaign drives of other political parties as they will be forced to give a reflection of what was happening on the ground.”
While suggestions by the residents could be welcomed in some circles, opposition parties that have been competing for space in the country’s political landscape could find it difficult to do so as some traditional crowd pullers could be reluctant to allow their competitors to piggyback on them.
Zanu PF, which has also used rallies to parcel out state sourced food handouts and inputs, may also be unwilling to share crowds with its competitors.
During the country’s inclusive government era, President Mugabe and other political leaders within the coalition administration made unfulfilled promises to address joint rallies condemning political violence.
Zanu PF has also ensured its opponents did not enjoy the same opportunities of addressing rallies as police has often invoked POSA provisions to ban opposition rallies.