Police ban political parties from door-to-door campaigns

OFFICER Commanding Harare Suburban District, Chief Superintendent Reggies Chitekwe, this week summoned the main political parties to Harare Central police station to announce the ban of door-to-door campaigns to curb political violence which might increase as the country heads for general elections this year.

By Wongai Zhangazha

The announcement by Chitekwe comes after the MDC-T launched a door-to-door campaign two months ago, which led to a series of arrests with the latest being that of 19 party activists and later five more for allegedly conducting an illegal voter education exercise.

Addressing about 50 people from the main political parties Zanu PF, MDC-T, MDC and Mavambo/Dawn/Kusile, Chitekwe said this was an official directive to curb political violence and protect citizens.

National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi confirmed the meeting on Wednesday, saying it was Chitekwe’s responsibility to ensure safety of residents who fall under his district.

Nyathi said: “The regulating authority is given powers to assess situations in their areas as far as security is concerned. It’s his duty to consider safety of citizens. There have been incidences when some of these door-to-door activities are held in the evening, on private properties and this might end up in violent incidences. We encourage the move taken by the regulating authority.”

Areas that fall under Chitekwe’s district include Avondale, Mabvuku, Borrowdale and Marlborough.

However, MDC parties’ activists said the move was unfair as Zanu PF has been embarking on door-to-door campaigns since early this year without any arrests taking place.

They described the move as part of a police campaign to block mainly the MDC-T from freely mobilising its members ahead of this year’s make-or-break elections.

Lately Zanu PF supporters have been accused of carrying out door-to-door voter registration exercises in a number of high density residential areas checking whether names of citizens above 18 years of age appear on the voters’ roll.

Those not found not on the voters’ roll were asked to go and register while the registered were given membership forms. This has been alleged in areas like Mbare, Dzivarasekwa and Glen View, among others.

A Dzivarasekwa resident who preferred anonymity said: “Known Zanu PF senior members in the area have been conducting their own door-to-door checks of the voters roll. This started way before the launch of mobile voter registration. When they came to our house they had this thick book which we thought to be the voters roll.

“Some residents complained of being forcibly given Zanu PF forms to fill. We ended up filling in the forms because who are we to say no. We stay with these people in our neighbourhood and we don’t want trouble when elections come.”

The voters’ registration exercise has descended into chaos as thousands of citizens fail to register to vote to long queues and restrictive requirements, particularly proof of residence. Cabinet has made a resolution to relax the requirements but registration officials are refusing to implement the directive, saying they have not yet been officially informed.

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