General Political/Electoral Environment The country’s major political parties, ZANU PF and the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) continued on their campaign trail for the anticipated 2023 elections, continuing with various processes of selecting candidates for their respective parties. There is growing anxiety from many quarters as citizens await the proclamation of election dates by President Emmerson Mnangagwa though the hype around an impending election remains conspicuously low compared to previous elections.
Cultivating fear – persecution by prosecution
In an apparent case of using the law to persecute political opponents, opposition leader, Jacob Ngarivhume was on April 28, 2023 slapped with an effective 3-year jail term after he was convicted by the Harare Magistrates Court on charges of inciting public violence by urging Zimbabweans to protest against the government in 2020.
Barely a week later on May 3, 2023 opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislator, Job Sikhala who has been in custody since June 2022 was convicted on charges of obstructing the course of justice by the Harare Magistrates Court and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment with an option to pay a fine of US$600.00. Sikhala remained in custody as he faces another charge of inciting public violence following the murder of CCC activist, Moreblessing Ali in June 2022.
Following the incarceration of Ngarivhume, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association raised concern over political developments in Zimbabwe adding that amendments to the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill will further shrink the democratic space in Zimbabwe.
The recent jailing of two key opposition figures within a week of each other continues to fuel sentiments that the incumbent government is using ‘law-fare’ to stifle the activities of legitimate opposition political party players, in the process tilting the electoral playing field against the opposition players. This is further cemented if one considers the apparent impunity and ‘soft gloves’ treatment that ZANU PF-aligned political leaders have received when facing the justice delivery system for different kinds of allegations. The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition released a statement in response to what is clearly becoming a pattern of ‘persecution by prosecution’ targeting opposition political party activists and civil society activists.
Doubts over free, fair polls The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President, Florence Taruvinga in her International Workers’ Day on May 1, 2023 expressed concern that developments obtaining ahead of the 2023 elections point to a disputed outcome, urging Zimbabweans to act and demand credible elections. On the other hand the Election Resource Centre warned of a possible breach of electoral laws given the continued delay by President Mnangagwa in announcing dates for the 2023 harmonised elections. The elections watchdog had also on April 29 2023, expressed concern over the continued violation of the constitution by the ruling party, ZANU PF following sentiments by the party’s Vice President, Kembo Mohadi that Chiefs were prepared to campaign for the revolutionary party. The ERC implored the ruling party to uphold Section 281 which obliges traditional leaders to act in a non-partisan manner and not to further the interests of any political party. A group of British Parliamentarians under the All Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe also wrote to the British Foreign Secretary expressing concerns over the human rights and political situation in Zimbabwe. However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while addressing the ZANU PF Youth League on May 3, 2023 called for peace and tolerance ahead of the 2023 polls. On Political violence
Inter-party violence reared its ugly head in Chinhoyi on April 30 2023 following violent clashes between supporters of the Citizens Coalition for Change and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after the latter tried to take over the offices being used by the former in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West province.
Activities towards the 2023 elections
As part of efforts to combat election Gender Based Violence (GBV), the Zimbabwe Council of Churches hosted a Community Dialogue on Election Gender Based Violence in Chitungwiza on April 29, 2023.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) conducted a voter registration exercise at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) on the 28th of April 2023. The public was educated on the polling process and the delimitation exercise.
ZEC also held a voter education review strategy and stakeholder engagement workshop in Kadoma on 01 May 2023. Civil Society Organisations, Faith Based Organisations and Independent Commissions attended the event.