With elections in Zimbabwe scheduled for March 29, the anniversary of this bloody event that saw one killed and many more viciously beaten and arrested is an important reminder of the perilous state of democracy in Zimbabwe and the likelihood that the upcoming vote will be anything but free and fair.
Since the Movement for Democratic Change first challenged Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party for power in 2000, Mugabe has institutionalized violence and intimidation and willfully destroyed Zimbabwe’s once prosperous economy in an effort to maintain his grip on power. After Zimbabwe’s last elections in 2005, Mugabe ordered the razing of entire urban neighbourhoods where support for the MDC was strong in an operation dubbed “Clean Out Filth.”
The countless atrocities the Mugabe regime has committed against its people have never been properly prosecuted. As Rights & Democracy and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) have previously urged, institutions such as the Commonwealth, African Union, Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations should properly condemn these human rights atrocities as well as ensure that the upcoming vote adheres to the guidelines for free and fair elections that were established by the SADC in 2002 and endorsed by President Mugabe himself. Indications in Zimbabwe already suggest that these guidelines are being violated, notably the absence of independent media and the selective distribution of food aid in exchange for pledges of allegiance to Zanu-PF. In addition, over four million Zimbabweans living in exile as a result of Zanu-PF’s political and economic policies have been denied the right to vote.
“Any election that ignores this significant segment of Zimbabwe’s voting populace can never be considered legitimate nor can it be considered to represent the will of Zimbabwe’s people,” said Gabriel Shumba, Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum.
Although violence has not been as rife as in previous elections, Rights & Democracy and ZEF remain concerned that arrests of opposition candidates and activists abound. Rights & Democracy and ZEF also condemn threats made by the General Commander of Zimbabwe’s Defense Forces on the weekend regarding the army’s willingness to resort to a coup in the event of an opposition victory.
For more information, please contact:
Gabriel Shumba, Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, Office: 027 12 322 6969 or Cell: 027 72 639 3795
Steve Smith, Rights & Democracy, 514-898-4157.
Exec Director and Human Rights Lawyer
Zimbabwe Exiles Forum
C/o Amnesty International SA
1st Fl. Kutlawanong Democracy Centre
357 Visagie St
Pretoria 0001, SA
Tel +27 12 322 6969
Mobile +27 72 639 3795