"In April, ZPP recorded three incidents of disruption of political events, 88 cases of harassment and intimidation, 23 cases of discrimination during aid distribution, many of which point to an increase in tensions within communities."
It appears the silly season is upon us!
Judging by the incidents of human rights violations recorded in April countrywide, the ruling Zanu PF party, which has always used brute methods to garner support ahead of elections, appears to have gone a gear up in laying the bed for the 2023 elections.
Just as in the past, the strategy has always been to shut down political space for opposition parties elbowing them out of what is supposed to be their business, way ahead of election time, such that when the official campaign period kicks off, communities would have already been whipped into silence and fear.
Using its well-oiled internal structures and the ever-complicit state security apparatus and traditional leaders, Zanu PF has in the past employed tactics such as intimidation, harassment, threats, disruption of events, discrimination during food aid processes and assault, among other methods.
In light of this, Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) in April recorded three incidents of disruption of political events, 88 cases of harassment and intimidation, 23 cases of discrimination during aid distribution, many of which point to an increase in tensions within communities.
Judging by the pattern of the events, they are not coincidences, but a clearly systematic drive towards the 2023 elections.
For example, in Harare, Mabelreign police disrupted an MDC-Alliance Harare West Constituency Coordinating Committee meeting on 4 April and arrested and briefly detained former Ward 16 Councillor Denford Ngadziore.
Two weeks later, on 24 April, police, without proffering any reason, disrupted another MDC Alliance provincial meeting in Epworth.
Zanu PF and the MDC-T - an offshoot of the MDC Alliance which has given official support to Zanu PF and government - have continued to conduct their meetings with no disruptions except in cases where citizens spurn invitations to attend MDC-T meetings.
On 24 April the police disrupted a clean-up campaign led by the 31 July Movement convener and leader of Transform Zimbabwe, Jacob Ngarivhume, in Mbare.
In Chiwundura Constituency, at Muchakata, Vhuka Uzizenzele and Maodza Business Centres, the revival of terror bases by Zanu PF is said to have commenced.
In separate groups Zanu PF youths, acting on the command of their provincial leadership, allegedly patrol the three centres and the entire community checking if there are any individuals engaging in opposition politics.
On 16 April, a village head in Murehwa North convened a meeting in Ward 9 and reportedly said that MDC Alliance supporters had no place in his village and that they would not benefit from any government social welfare assistance until they openly denounced the MDC Alliance.
Elsewhere, in Zaka Central Ward 19, on 15 April, Mr Rupindo, who is a Zanu PF Vice Chairperson for the Ward and an employee at Chemusisi Hospital, allegedly threatened to assault about 45 beneficiaries of the social welfare food aid if they failed to chant ruling party slogans and cross the floor to Zanu PF. He reportedly told beneficiaries that government aid was from President Emmerson Mnangagwa and was meant for Zanu PF members only.
These and more incidents that ZPP has recorded in April and in the past point to a gradually deteriorating political environment and with some Zanu PF officials having declared the party will win the 2023 election by whatever means; this calls for urgent interventions to ensure the run up to the elections is peaceful and that human rights are observed, respected and defended while checks and balances are in place in the interest of the citizens who are often the victims in the whole political game.
The ZPP continues with its call for political tolerance and observance of the Constitution, which guarantees civil and political freedoms to all Zimbabweans.