Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Political violence report - Mar 2005

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OVERVIEW

The month of March exhibited the lack of political tolerance and respect for the rights of others that continues to prevail in Zimbabwe, especially during election periods. This month saw a significant rise in the number of assaults, violations of freedom of assembly, association and movement and political intimidation, victimization and discrimination. As the month began, a ZANU-PF supporter and war veteran, Gift Chimbandi, was burnt to death in his house on 3 March in Mazowe East, under circumstances that the Government press has described as politically motivated. The Human Rights Forum stresses the importance of political tolerance and the respect not only for other people's views but the sanctity of human life. The enjoyment of every other right is dependent on the enjoyment of the right to life.

Reports throughout the country indicate that opposition MDC activists were prevented from campaigning freely. MDC Parliamentary candidate for Zvimba North constituency, Prince Chibanda, was allegedly abducted and victimized by ZANU-PF activists for trying to campaign in the area who told him that Zvimba North was not an MDC area. He was allegedly arrested by the police after his abduction. Other MDC activists and supporters were reportedly assaulted, arrested or victimized for putting up campaign posters, distributing campaign material or attending rallies. This made it difficult for the opposition to campaign freely for the March 31 Parliamentary elections. MDC Parliamentary candidate for Harare Central, Murisi Zwizai, was reportedly barred by the police from holding a campaign road show in Harare Central.. The Human Rights Forum continues to urge Government to ensure that elections in the country, at whatever level, are held under conditions that ensure freeness and fairness for all parties.

It is further reported that ZANU-PF activists forced commuter operators plying the City-Tafara/Mabvuku route to stick ZANU-PF posters on their vehicles. The Forum calls upon

Zimbabwean citizens to ensure the respect and protection of other peoples' rights no matter what their political affiliation may be.

On the election day itself, Women Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members are reported to have been heavy-handedly dispersed by police as they held a peaceful prayer vigil in Harare's Africa Unity Square. To quote the WOZA members, the vigil by candlelight was meant to "safeguard the vote from manipulation as reported in the 2000 and 2002 elections". The police assaulted and arrested several of the peaceful crowd. Many women, some with babies on their backs, were allegedly assaulted and others had to be hospitalized. If reports are true, The Human Rights Forum condemns the heavy-handed manner in which this peaceful vigil was disrupted.

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