The nation held its breath throughout the period under review with elections slated for July 31. It was a period marked by uncertainty whether elections will be held or not with different pointers from Zanu PF insisting that elections be held come rain or thunder. On the other hand, the MDC-T was contesting the whole election arrangement, its legality and other administrative issues regarding the elections and thirdly SADC’s position of wanting the elections postponed by another two weeks hit a brick wall. The month kicked off with a number of court cases, voter registration, special voting, party campaign meetings and finally the election itself which resulted in Zanu PF and President Mugabe being declared winners with a 61% win. However, the MDC-T immediately refused to concede defeat citing a plethora of issues.
In terms of human rights violations, the period under review recorded the least number of violations in the last three months with 496 violations. Manicaland with 115 violations had the highest violations followed by Masvingo (78) Mashonaland West (64). Matebeleland North had the lowest figures recording just 10 violations. Indeed, the country projected a semblance of ‘peace and tranquillity’, may be, the people understood the peace messages from the political leadership. However, gurus in peace studies such as Galtung rightly observed that “peace is not the absence of physical violence” Thus when assessing the pre-election environment that existed, the need to look at other variables rather than just one aspect of physical violence becomes paramount. Thus other forms of violence such as structural violence where employed against the people. For example, the presence and partisan actions of structures such as war veterans, military personnel, the police, terror bases, traditional leaders and denial of food have to be considered in order to clearly judge the environment as just, free and fair.
As the political heat increased, civil and political rights of citizens tumbled. Daily priorities of the common person became intertwined intricately with party campaigns. Shops and businesses closed when President Robert Mugabe addressed star rallies in specific areas such as Chitungwiza and Mutare. Further, the campaigns also affected people’s livelihoods since they were being shuttled to attend rallies, some voluntarily and yet some without consent leaving their daily chores in order to attend political rallies. Zanu PF being fingered as the main violator in this regard. For example, on the 25th of July people were ferried to Mucheke stadium in Masvingo in lorries, buses, kombis and even a train was assigned for attendance purposes. Some of the villagers came from as far as Chirumanzu, Mwenezi and Chiredzi. However, after the rally they were left without transportation and food.
Freedom of assembly and association, right to vote and secrecy of the vote became seriously compromised. Zanu PF long term investment in structures of coercion in the form of war veterans, traditional leaders, youths and security members appear to have paid off. Zanu PF resurrected these structures of coercion across the country towards the elections. They indeed obliged and instilled psychological fear among communities. On 22/7/13, in Zoma area ward 1 (Gutu west- Masvingo), a Zimbabwe National Army serving member who is a colonel and war veteran reportedly shocked the community when in his address to the community he warned them against voting for the MDC-T lest the ghost of June 2008 returns to haunt them. He reportedly mentioned some names of people from ward 1 and 2 who were killed during that dark era and told the people that Zanu PF was prepared tokill. In Mazowe West (Mashonaland Central), Zanu PF militia bases were established at Watakai Farm. Youths were recruited and there was a door to door campaign meant to force people to vote for Zanu PF.
On Election Day, incidences of voters being shepherded to polling stations by Zanu PF activists such as traditional leaders, war veterans and youths were reported throughout the country. Very articulate and educated people like teachers were forced to vote as assisted voters. In areas such as Mutare South, Mazowe, and other areas, Zanu PF leaders and traditional leaders had books “Zanu PF supervisor’s election data book” where voters were entered after voting. According to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission figures the number of assisted voters nationally amounted to a massive 206 901 regardless of the fact that Zimbabwe boasts of a 96% literacy rate. This high number of assisted voters compromised the integrity and secrecy of the ballot.