Talk Of Elections Traumatising Zimbabweans

Karimba escaped with burns when he bolted from a hut in which his wife and son perished in the run-up to the polls in which scores were killed and thousands left homeless.

Nearly three years on, the torched hut remains without a roof while the walls are crumbling as Karimba cannot afford to re-construct it. He was not compensated for his loss of property or injury.

“It’s traumatising,” Karimba said. “How much more should we suffer? I know they will come for us again and probably this time they will make sure I’m dead.”

Grace Samunda of Mhondoro said she felt afraid too.

Samunda’s husband was abducted during the 2008 election campaign and has never been seen again.

“We are not ready for yet another round of torture and killings,” said Samunda. “Why are they pushing for elections when we have not been compensated for the loss we suffered in the last electionsin 2008? I do not want any election until those responsible for our troubles are dealt with.”

President Robert Mugabe is pushing for an election in 2011 with or without constitution reforms because he does not want the two year old unity government extended. His rival, leader of the mainstream Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai said he is prepared for an election once a new constitution is in place. Tsvangirai said that there could be no credible election in Zimbabwe before a plethora of reforms including amendments to electoral laws.

Civil society organisations said Zimbabwe was not ready for another election saying national healing, key to peaceful elections, had not been carried out. Heal Zimbabwe, a non-governmental organisation, involved in assisting victims of political violence, said human rights abuses witnessed during the last elections were on the increase.

“Zimbabwe cannot be ready for elections when victims of political violence are still wallowing in abject poverty as consequences of the 2008 political violence and no justice has prevailed since the formation of the Inclusive Government,” Heal Zimbabwe said.

“Houses were burnt, property destroyed, some people are still missing, some are still to be buried, and some are still to receive treatment for the injuries sustained during the election violence of 2008,” the NGO added.

Heal Zimbabwe has been conducting public consultative meetings in Midlands, Mashonaland Central, east, Masvingo and Matabeleland on the readiness of communities on elections. It found that there was a general consensus that the national healing process should be the starting point before any call for elections and that the form, process and content of the national healing process should come from the grassroots themselves especially from victims of political violence.

A survey carried out by Heal Zimbabwe during the consultative meetings, 67% of the participants highlighted that there could only meaningfully participate in elections if they were supervised by the international community as they could not bear the resurgence of the 2008 political violence which killed more than 200 supporters of the MDC.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), said reforms meant to ensure more freedoms to locals had not yet been implemented. ZESN said electoral reforms had to be carried out to ensure that disadvantaged groups would be allowed to vote.

The NGO noted the continued incarceration of political activists and those perceived to be in the opposition, a partisan of the police and lack of security of human rights defenders were some of the inhibitions to a free and fair election.

ZESN said there should be freedom of expression as required by the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which brought about the unity government. It said the recent arrests of a leading independent newspaper editor and journalists, showed more work needed to be done before another election could be held in Zimbabwe.

Elections in Zimbabwe have proven to be one of the major arenas of human rights abuses where the country records its highest cases of human rights abuses. Traditionally, elections in the country have been marred by intense state-sponsored violence and it is one of the tactics of Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party.

Cases of human rights violations have been documented and some of the many cases of political violence that were reported during the elections period were dismissed by the partisan police.

At present there have been no concrete mechanisms put in place to guarantee that Zimbabwe would not have another violent infested election period. Perpetrators of political violence are still to be brought before justice thus making it easy for the same perpetrators to continue victimising people