Source: Desist from violence, political parties told | The Herald January 9, 2017
Samantha Chigogo: Herald Correspondent
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHCR) has called on political parties to dissuade their supporters from engaging in violence ahead of the forthcoming 2018 harmonised elections.Leaders of parties that fan political violence as a way of forcing people to vote for them face prosecution, said the human rights body. This was said last Friday during the appointment of Mrs Makanatsa Makonese to the post of executive secretary of the organisation that has been vacant since 2015 following the move by Mrs Jester Charewa to the High Court bench.
Speaking at the ceremony ZHRC chairperson Mr Elasto Mugwadi, said the organisation remained committed to ensure that free and safe elections prevailed in the country.
“Our mandate in line with elections is very clear. We do embark on pre-election awareness campaigns and resources permitting, we would like to do it long before elections begin.
“What we are trying to do is to bring to the attention of the people that winning the election is not by violence. It has to be in terms of following democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution. People have the right to assembly, association and choose their political leaders by free will not by cohesion.”
Mr Mugwadi urged political parties to guard against violence and be guided by the country’s Constitution.
“We hope that those participating in elections should be deterred by the fact that if they are caught on the wrong side of the law, they will be prosecuted. We are saying to those participating in elections that if you get involved in violence you will be arrested,” he said.
“The Constitution says we can direct the Commissioner-General of police to carry out investigations and we can cause the prosecution of perpetrators. We have done this before and we will continue to do it.”
Mr Mugwadi, however, said the commission members would not be supervising electoral participants as they did not have the capacity.
He said resources permitting, they should be monitoring most political activities during the election period, including rallies and caucuses where politicians elect their candidates to stand in for special constituencies.
Mrs Makonese is an experienced and highly skilled human rights lawyer who has worked on legal, human rights, democracy, governance and rule of law initiatives at national level in various countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, at African continent level and internationally.
Mrs Makonese holds a Master’s Degree in Women’s Law from the University of Zimbabwe, a Bachelor of Laws Honours Degree from the University of Zimbabwe as well as a Diploma in Personnel (Human Resources) Management from the Zimbabwe Institute of Personnel Management.
Before joining the ZHRC Mrs Makonese was working for the SADC Lawyers’ Association (Botswana and South Africa) where she was the executive secretary from March 2011 to December 2016.
In previous appointments she worked as a magistrate from February 1998 to July 2002 before joining the Child Protection Society, where she served as advocacy officer between 2002 and 2003.
Between 2003 to March 2009 she served as senior environmental lawyer and gender coordinator.
She joined the SADC Lawyers’ Association in the capacity of assistant programmes director, rising through the ranks to the acting chief executive officer and chief executive officer.