COUNTDOWN TO ZIM ELECTION
Zanu-PF signs peace pact, despite accusations of involvement in stoning opposition activist to death
Zimbabwe’s major political parties signed a peace covenant on Friday ahead of the contentious 23 August general elections as police arrested close to a dozen people in connection with the murder of opposition activist Tinashe Chitsunge, who was stoned to death allegedly by suspected functionaries of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF, accused by the opposition of using bullying tactics, violence and intimidation against opponents, joined other major political parties contesting this month’s harmonised elections in signing a peace pact on Friday, which calls for non-violence and peace before, during and after the 23 August polls.
United Zimbabwe Alliance’s presidential candidate Elisabeth Valerio and representatives of the ruling Zanu-PF and the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party and other fringe parties, agreed to use peaceful means to resolve any electoral disputes before, during and after the elections.
In 2018, nearly 10 people were killed by the army during post-election violence when supporters of the MDC Alliance, then led by Nelson Chamisa, accused Mnangagwa and his party of manipulating election results. However, the Constitutional Court dismissed Chamisa’s application to nullify Mnangagwa’s election for lack of merit.
The signing of the peace covenant on Friday came only a day after a CCC member was killed in Harare’s populous Glen Norah suburb by suspected ruling-party functionaries.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on Friday swooped on 10 people suspected to be part of a Zanu-PF gang that allegedly stoned CCC supporters in Harare on Thursday, resulting in the death of Tinashe Chitsunge.
ZRP national spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, confirmed the arrests.
“Reference is made to Glen Norah violence which occurred on 03/08/2023 resulting in the death of Tinashe Chitsunge. ZRP confirms that 10 suspects have now been arrested and are assisting the police with investigations,” Nyathi said.
CCC national spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere alleged that video evidence showed Zanu-PF youths inciting violence, threatening CCC members and boasting that police would not do anything to them.
“The Zanu-PF youths started throwing big boulders at our members [and] eventually struck Tinashe Chitsunge. According to reports of those present, they continued to attack him with stones after he fell to the ground,” Mahere said, adding that several other party members were injured.
Mahere also alleged that the convoy of CCC leader, Nelson Chamisa, was attacked late on Thursday in Manicaland Province where he had been campaigning.
“We have also received reports of politically motivated violence perpetrated by Zanu-PF in Mutare Central, Nyanga, Chivi, Chipinge and Shurugwi among many others. A Zanu-PF mob stoned President Nelson Chamisa’s convoy and barricaded roads as President Chamisa travelled in Manicaland yesterday [Thursday] as part of our campaign,” Mahere said.
Following Friday’s signing of the peace pact, Zanu-PF’s deputy legal affairs secretary, Fortune Chasi, said it was regrettable a life was lost in politically motivated violence and urged police to take strict measures against perpetrators.
‘We want elections not war’
“As Zanu-PF, we are committed to participate in elections that are free of violence and destruction of people’s property. Like we signed the peace pledge, we urge all our members to desist from violence,” Chasi said.
“Anyone who commits acts of violence in the name of our party will be arrested and will face the full wrath of the law, and as a party, we will also take disciplinary measures against such a member. It is regrettable that our party members are being accused of causing the death of someone but we expect the police who are investigating the matter to do their work diligently,” Chasi said.
Meanwhile, Mahere called for an end to the systematic targeting of the opposition and said the CCC wanted a non-partisan investigation by the police into Chitsunge’s murder.
“An electoral process soaked in the blood of citizens is not the sort of electoral process the citizens of Zimbabwe [want]. We want elections not war,” she said.
Meanwhile, international human rights watchdog Amnesty International called on Zimbabwean authorities to respect citizens’ rights ahead of the general elections.
“The fatal attack on Tinashe Chitsunge, a CCC activist, paints a grim picture of the human rights environment in Zimbabwe ahead of the general elections scheduled for 23 August 2023. Such callous acts of violence, which have repeatedly marred Zimbabwe’s political landscape, gravely threaten the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Khanyo Farise, Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa.
Blood has been spilled in a number of elections in Zimbabwe in the past, with the most recent being last year’s parliamentary by-elections, with the opposition accusing the Zanu-PF of gangsterism after one of its activists, Mboneni Ncube, died as a result of politically motivated violence in Kwekwe, Midlands Province.
In 2008, the founding president of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of the presidential runoff vote after scores of his party’s supporters were killed, allegedly in state-sponsored violence, arguing that “I cannot go to State House walking over dead bodies”. DM