Forced attendance labelled abusive

Forcing people to attend political rallies violates people’s rights to freedom of movement and association, says MDC-T secretary general, Tendai Biti.

Biti added that the MDC-T was concerned about political parties bringing people’s livelihoods to a standstill by forcing them to close their businesses and and attend rallies against their will.

“Experience has taught us that unpopular political parties like Zanu (PF) perpetrate the worst forms of political violence through forced rally attendances,” said Biti.

Biti said Mugabe recently brought livelihoods and business in Marondera and Chitungwiza to a standstill, as people were forced to go to his rallies at Rudhaka and Chibuku Stadia. The July 16 Chibuku Stadium rally resulted in the loss of lives following stampedes and overcrowding. Biti said political activities should not claim even a single drop of human blood.

The Director of the Election Resource Centre, Tawanda Chimhini, said forced rally attendance was typical of undemocratic political practices.

“When people are forced to attend rallies, they realise that they are robbed of their freedom of choice and association. This will lead to apathy at the polls,” Chimhini told The Zimbabwean.

Zanu (PF) denied forcing people to its rallies and claimed that ‘huge attendances at its functions are as a result of the party’s popularity’.

“We do not frog march people to our rallies. Our party is popular with the people because of its policies and record, hence the overwhelming turnouts,” said Zanu (PF) spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo.

Interviewed residents of Chitungwiza, said they were forced to attend the fatal Chibuku Stadium Zanu (PF) rally against their will.

“All business activity was brought to a halt as shops, flea markets, vegetable markets and any form of livelihood was forced shut. Public transport ferrying passengers to various destinations were also forced to divert routes and drop people at the rally,” said a resident who chose to be identified as Tembo, for security reasons.

Efforts to get comment from JOMIC officials such as Joramu Nyati and Qubani Moyo were fruitless.

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