By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, October 28, 2016 – CIVIC groups in Zimbabwe have roundly condemned Zanu PF and its supporters for violent disruptions on ongoing public hearings on electoral law reforms countrywide.
The groups further slammed Zimbabwean police for failure to act in the face of impunity displayed by ruling party supporters.
The public meetings are being held at the behest of the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and some civil society organisations that recently petitioned parliament to kickstart the process of updating the country electoral law ahead of the 2018 elections.
Parliament has since been conducting meetings in Bulawayo, Concession, Gwanda, Gweru, Harare, Mutare and Mutoko.
Hordes of Zanu PF supporters on Thursday assaulted opposition MPs, Jessie Majome (Harare West) and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (Matabeleland South proportional representation MP) during a meeting held in Mutare.
Similar acts of violence were reported in Mutoko and lately in Bulawayo.
In the incidences, police have failed to act, something that has elicited strong condemnation by the civic groups.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), which comprises over 50 pro-democracy and rights groups, said the violence experienced so far showed that President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party would stop at nothing to visit violence on opponents to preserve power.
The group also accused police for failure to act in the face of the “barbaric” acts by Zanu PF supporters.
“The ZRP has on numerous cases acted swiftly to institute a series of arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters yet no action is taken when Zanu PF supporters perpetrate violence against opposition lawmakers and supporters,” CiZC said in a statement.
Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri is an avowed Zanu PF supporter.
Said CiZC: “Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is concerned that such partisan behavior by the police which leads them to condone violent behaviour could lead to loss of lives especially as the country braces for the 2018 polls.”
The country’s recent history is replete with cases in which the state has failed to act on cases of politically motivated murder, rape, plunder and assaults by Zanu PF supporters.
CiZC implored President Mugabe to follow through on his pledges for peace and tolerance.
ZimRights also condemned the violence which it said was “choreographed”.
“ZimRights is disturbed by the undemocratic and violent attempts by members of the ruling party at preventing citizens from making their voices heard regarding electoral reforms in the public hearings on the petition made to Parliament by the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and 14 other organisations,” said the group in a statement.
“The violent incidences by Zanu PF officials are a clear disregard and in contempt of the constitutional role of parliament, which is mandated to hear public views on issues of national interest so as to factor them in the legislative agenda.”
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (Zpp) also condemned the disruptions saying political activists had no place in impinging on the rights of other citizens genuinely expressing their victims on matters of national importance.
“Zimbabweans have the right to convene and discuss issues of national interest without fear of victimisation, intimidation or harassment. Zanu PF leaders, youths and women should be reined in by the respective political party leadership and be instructed to respect national processes,” ZPP said in a statement.
“At the same time police should be reminded of their mandate as the nation can no longer have incidents where violence is perpetrated either by police or in the presence of police offers without any consequences.”
The hearings are being held by parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
They are aimed at gathering the views of the nation on the petition calling for the right to vote for all eligible voters, electoral justice, a continuous process of voter education, independence of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and an improved voter registration process.