As the country’s major political parties gear up in preparing for another electoral cycle, political tensions are slowly rising across the country with 444 cases recorded in October up from the 365 incidents witnessed during the month of September.
Political polarization is on the rise as political parties move to organise their supporters and begin to engage voters in preparation for the constitutional referendum and next year’s anticipated general elections. One of the major strategies being used by the political parties are door-to-door campaigns as a result of police banning political rallies in most of the country’s provinces.
Experiences of organized political terror are being relived in most parts of the country with an increase in the deployment and visibility of state security agents and soldiers particularly in Manicaland and Bulawayo provinces where they were engaged in human rights abuses in 2008.
In Bulawayo- two cases of torture were recorded during the period under review and CIO agents were cited as perpetrators. The torture occurred during police detention.
The COPAC Second All Stakeholders’ Conference was the highlight of political events of October 2012. While the actual conference was staged in a peaceful atmosphere with the keynote speaker- President Robert Mugabe making impassioned pleas for peace and political tolerance- the build-up to the conference and the accreditation process was marred by political intolerance, discrimination and outright intimidation with rural opposition supporters being denied access to accreditation centres or chased away with threats of violence emanating from Zanu PF supporters. The citizenship and Lands clusters were marred by hate speech and the latter degenerated into chaos as delegates exchanged insults.
Cases of politically-motivated violence and discrimination experienced an upsurge and were concentrated more in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces- two provinces that were previously dominated by Zanu PF before March 2008 harmonised elections.
Another emerging trend that was confirmed by reports from the two provinces is the simultaneous politicization and empowerment of the institution of traditional leadership.
Headmen and Chiefs have overnight become a law unto themselves assuming powers and appropriating functions beyond their constitutional mandate with the blessing of Zanu PF aligned state officials and the police.