via Voters vulnerable, exposed to abuse – NewsDay Zimbabwe January 28, 2016
ZIMBABWEANS feel exposed, alone and are vulnerable to abuse by politicians and those in power, as the country’s electoral environment continues on its downwards spiral, a report by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has said.
The CCJP, in its report titled Reflections on lessons learnt from observing Zimbabwe’s 19 By-elections held in 2015, said grinding poverty has also militated against people’s political choices.
“Whilst Zec’s [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] administration of elections has been relatively improving, it is not possible for Zec alone to administer a free and fair election in the current context without faithful co-operation and compliance from the Registrar-General’s Office for continuous and periodic issuance of identity documents.
“Politicians and political parties, who should respect the Constitution and electoral code of conduct, peace and diversity [as well as] traditional leaders some of whom have become extensions of political party structures, who used their influence to threaten people, isolate or even evict those suspected of/to support political parties of their choice,” the report said.
The commission said Zimbabwean voters have lost hope in electoral processes because of continued threats and intimidation.
“In some marginalised rural areas, there are no alternative sources of information except what would come from a local leader. Some of the voters interviewed said ‘we are exposed, we are alone and we have become too vulnerable to politicians’. In such areas slogans are known more than the 10 Commandments, more than the social teachings of the church and more than constitutional rights,” the CCJP said.
“Their levels of poverty have also militated against their independent political choices. They are usually attracted by small, shortlived so-called income-generating projects that only erupt when there are electoral vacancies.”
CCJP called on ordinary people to resist political acts of coercion.
“Voters should have courage to resist and reject intimidation and threats, assisted voting [if literate] or to be grouped or force-marched to a polling station. They must not be afraid of any election and should not make political choices out of fear.
“Continuous voter education and information throughout the electoral cycle and comprehensive peace and healing processes are important in preparing voters for the
forthcoming elections,” the group said.
The report also revealed details of a meeting it had with South African President Jacob Zuma’s aides where they were told bluntly that Zimbabwe’s southern neighbour was willing to help financially once things stabilised.
It added that open violence had subsided and been replaced by reinvigoration of yesteryear electoral aggression, with some politicians and traditional
leaders as agents of fear and intimidation.
The CCJP said the impression created by the threats, intimidations and incidents such as activist Itai Dzamara’s disappearance is that the State is not willing to watch as private citizens try and assert their rights.