Civic groups and non-governmental organizations in Zimbabwe will begin an outreach program today aimed at encouraging voters in rural areas ahead of the presidential election run-off. The groups say their move is in response to escalated violence in the areas, which they claim intimidates rural voters from showing up at the polls. The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change has often accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of using violence to intimidate its rural partisans. But the government dismisses the charges and accuses the MDC and civic groups of conniving with Zimbabwe’s enemies to force a regime change. Gordon Moyo is the executive director of the Bulawayo project, a non-governmental organization in Zimbabwe’s commercial capital. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that there is a need to restore voter confidence in the rural areas.
“The civic organizations together with frontline human rights defenders in the country. We have rolled out a rural outreach program to go out into the rural areas, which have been adversely affected by violence and displacement by ZANU-PF immediately after the March 29 elections. Therefore, the civic society organizations and front line defenders are saying lets go out to the rural areas to give confidence to the rural voters to give them information because there has been a lot of disinformation and misinformation about the elections run-off,” Moyo pointed out.
He said there is need for the non-governmental groups to encourage rural voters to take part in the election run-off after the recent escalation of violence.
“We are going out to the rural areas and meeting the key stakeholders there to show them that those people in the games are not invisible, but they are ordinary people and they can be challenged when information is available,” he said.
Moyo calls the move to embark on the rural outreach program well intended to encourage residents to vote.
“We think we are going to impact very positively to the rural communities by urging them to move forward, and that this is the last mile and that these are hard times. And we are saying to them, look, the times are difficult. But that these are not death sentence. They are birth pains. So we are telling them to move forward and we believe that the people of Zimbabwe have had enough of the challenges that they are facing. They have had enough of dictatorship. They’ve had a enough of hunger and starvation, and they would like to see their country moving forward,” Moyo noted.
He pledged that their outreach program would enlighten the rural voters ahead of the run-off.
“We believe that this project is going to impact positively. It is going to make a difference to the lives of the people. It is going to make a difference to the elections come June 27,” he said.
Moyo described as shocking accusations leveled by the ruling ZANU-PF party that the non-governmental organizations are agents of the west, working hard to force a regime change.
“That is a pathological lie. The civic society organizations and NGO’s in general in Zimbabwe are on the side of the victimized and not on the side of the political parties. We are frontline human rights defenders. When people are hungry, we condemn the policies that make people hungry. When people are brutalized, we condemn the perpetrators. Whichever side perpetrates violence is condemned. So, it is the guilty that say the civic society is against them. It is because they are on the guilty side. They are the ones that are perpetrating violence and civic organizations are against that,” Moyo pointed out.
Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights commissioner has reportedly condemned the violence that has gripped Zimbabwe since its March 29 election and is calling for a full-scale investigation into the killings and attacks. Louise Arbour says she is shocked and concerned about the brutal attacks against political activists that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims have led to more than 50 deaths.