HARARE — Dozens of Zimbabwean civic groups have started a "Feya Feya" (Shona for “fairly") campaign targeting young people to ensure they participate in the July 31 elections peacefully. They are urging them to register to vote and to refrain from violence.
At a musical concert in Chitungwiza - 30 kilometers outside Harare - some 80 pro-democracy organizations in Zimbabwe are pushing the “Feya-Feya campaign”.
“Basically all these organizations are calling for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe under the banner of “Feya-Feya campaign,” explained Nixon Nyikadzino, from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, explaining the campaign’s goals.
Zimbabwe is set to hold national elections on July 31. It will be the first vote since the country adopted a new constitution earlier this year. And it will bring an end to the contentious power sharing government that President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were pressured to form after the disputed 2008 polls. Mugabe claimed victory in that election, but African leaders said the intimidation and violence that claimed the lives of about 200 Tsvangirai supporters was unacceptable.
There is mounting regional pressure for this election to be different. Even the 89-year old Mugabe - who has been in power for more than 30 years - is striking a conciliatory tone in campaign speeches.
"So I say you are all Zimbabweans. Go and vote your own way. No one should force you to vote for me. Peace begins with me, me Robert Mugabe, you and with everybody, with all of us,” Mugabe said.
Stabile Dewa - with the civic group Heal Zimbabwe that is part of the “Feya-Feya campaign” - said politicians’ calls for peace are not enough to ensure nonviolent elections.
“The political leaders are calling for peace but at the grassroots people are still beating each other," Dewa said. "Why are people still fighting? So there is still some communication breakdown between political leaders and the grassroots. So we are saying the call for peace by political leaders; it has to be genuine and should be followed by a cascade of peace to the grassroots.”
Nyikadzino said the civic coalition is particularly interested in reaching young voters as the Feya Feya campaign moves around Zimbabwe. And so they choose venues such this music concert in Chitungwiza to get out the message.
“As you can see, we are trying to attract young people and these types of musicians have an impetus to try and attract people so that our message can be sent around to do with issues of voter registration, voters roll inspection and eventually voting during a particular a credible free and fair election,” Nyikadzino said.
Simon Mayo attended the concert and said he understands the message and supports it.
He said these elections are important for Zimbabwe’s development and violence will mar the vote. He believes only peace during the vote will result in a credible poll which other countries will respect.