Hre outreach delay heightens tension

DELAYS in conducting constitution-making process outreach programmes in Harare have heightened tension between supporters of rival political parties, a local peace advocacy group has warned.

In its latest report on human rights violations, Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) said President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC parties have increased campaigns, resulting in a tense situation.

“Despite the fact that Copac (Constitutional Parliamentary Committee) has suspended outreach meetings in Harare and Bulawayo, politically motivated violations were recorded in many constituencies around the capital city,” read the ZPP report for June released this week. “The delays by Copac in rolling out the outreach programme for Harare have resulted in more tensions between political party supporters over the constitution-making process.”

The report noted that supporters from both Zanu PF and the MDC had been named as perpetrators, although the MDC provided a higher number of victims. ZPP, which employs observers countrywide to record cases of human rights violations, said Zanu PF youths, liberation war veterans still loyal to Mugabe and security agents were allegedly behind a wave of violence and rights violations in Mashonaland Central, Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland and Mashonaland East provinces.

In June alone ZPP recorded 1 174 victims of human rights violations. Most of the violations, ZPP said, were directly linked to the constitution-making process outreach programme.

The report stated that violations by party affiliation showed that MDC-T supporters had their rights violated more, representing 53% of the victims.
“Most of the violations that were recorded during the month under review happened during the outreach meetings. The violations have been mainly before the outreach meetings where villagers would be told to support certain positions and coached on what to say when the Copac teams arrive,” reads the ZPP report. “ZPP reports from monitors also point to retributive violations where people are interrogated and harassed for not heeding the calls to support certain political party positions at the outreach meetings.”

Zanu PF, the ZPP report noted, had set up campaign camps manned by liberation war veterans in areas such as Mugadza in Headlands and Matezwa village in Chipinge.

This has raised fears that violence on the magnitude of the 2008 turmoil that Tsvangirai says killed
200 of his supporters could be organised from these camps.

“Cases of arson and malicious injury to property were also reported in Hwedza and Murehwa. Most of the violations that were recorded have been concentrated in the areas of Chikomba, Marondera, Goromonzi, Mudzi, Hwedza and Murehwa,” said ZPP.  “Violations related to revenge and retributive violence for disturbances that were recorded during the 2008 election continues to be recorded in many districts of Masvingo and the most affected areas are Zaka, Bikita, Chiredzi, Chibi, Gutu and Mwenezi.”

Southern provinces of Bulawayo and Matabeleland North and South were calm during the month under review with very few violations recorded, noted ZPP.

The organisation said cases of politically-motivated violations were recorded in Harare and Bulawayo even though the outreach programme was yet to start in the two main cities.

It said since 2008, 43 933 human rights violations have been recorded while the cumulative toll of violations on the distribution of food and other forms of aid since January 2008 has risen to 10 986.

Cases of rights violations continued to increase because of political leaders’ lack of will to encourage peace among their grassroots supporters, the report said.

MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa’s mobile phone went unanswered yesterday while Zanu PF secretary for information and publicity Rugare Gumbo could not comment, saying he was in a meeting at the time of going to press yesterday.— Staff writer