Mugabe Government Dismisses Rights Report

Zimbabwe’s government has described as rubbish accusations that general elections scheduled for March 29 would not be free and fair. This follows a report by US-based Human Rights Watch, which suggests that supporters of incumbent President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government use violence to intimidate partisans of opposition parties. Mugabe’s government contends that significant changes have been made to ensure that this month’s elections are credible.

It adds that the country’s electoral commission is adequately prepared and would be unbiased in discharging its duties. Gordon Moyo is the executive director of the Bulawayo project, a non-governmental organization based in the country’s commercial capital. From Bulawayo, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that the elections would not be credible.

“The facts on the ground are that the government has engaged on its cultural violence, which it has been practicing over the years. We had a situation over the past two weeks where the commissioner of prison services addressed the police and told them that they should vote for ZANU-PF, ordering them to vote for ZANU-PF. That sends signals to the military structures that they should defend ZANU-PF, disrupt opposition campaigns, and disturb people’s peace. That alone is violence because it is a precursor to what is likely to take place if Mugabe were to lose,” Moyo pointed out.

He denied President Mugabe’s government has made significant strides in ensuring this month’s elections are credible.

“We are actually havening the police commissioner. We are actually having the military structures at a very senior level making such statements. Any other statement becomes a political statement, but the statements that are coming from military structures and from the security community are serious violations of electoral guidelines that govern democratic elections in the SADC (Southern African Development Community),” he said.

Moyo accused the government of employing tactics that undermine basic election practices in a democracy.

“So, it’s violence, threats, and it is about manipulation. Not only that we know that the chiefs around the rural areas are going around telling people that only ZANU-PF supporters are going to vote on 29 March. And that anyone who is not going to vote for ZANU-PF should go and vote on 30th March. These are strategies from the ZANU-PF, and are part of intimidation because if you are telling people not to go and vote on 29 March, then you are intimidating them. You are disenfranchising them and that kind of election can never be free, can never be fair,” Moyo noted.

He expressed confidence in the ordinary Zimbabwean to change the government.

“Indeed, Zimbabweans are resolved to vote this dictatorship out. They are prepared to vote for change, and for change that they trust. But this government of Robert Mugabe is going to steal the election. We know that they are saying they are going to use helicopters to carry ballot papers, and they are not going to allow polling agents to accompany the ballot papers,” he said.         

Moyo said President Mugabe’s recent statements ahead of next week’s elections amount to intimidation.         

“And again the president has issued a decree at the end of last week that police officers are going to be inside the polling booths, and they are going to be assisting people to vote. Those are threats and you cannot have free and fair elections. But Zimbabweans at all levels are resolved to vote for change,” Moyo said.