The Zimbabwe Election Support Network or ZESN and the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust, ZIMCET, say that violence is on the increase in the constituencies of Kuwadzana and Highfield.
An observer with ZIMCET in Kuwadzana, who asks to be called “Kumbirai” says that the major political parties are involved in violence, though most of it is being instigated by the by the ruling party, ZANU PF.
“We have seen buildings being turned into torture camps and that the MDC candidate, Chamisa is being barred from campaigning and has sometimes been arrested,” said "Kumbirarai".
The Harare City Council has already condemned what it calls the turning of its community halls, libraries and offices into ZANU PF militia basis. Observer groups say that that preparations for the by-elections started well with the inspections of the voters roll in the two constituencies.
However, Ellen Kandororo, the Information Officer for ZESN, says that the Registrar Generals office refused to make the voters’ roll available to the opposition MDC for verification. Ms. Kandororo says that a lot of ghost voters and people who do not live in Kuwadzana found their way into the voters roll. According to Kandororo, local observers groups have to operate underground because the police and ruling party supporters are targeting them.
“One of our members, Combined Harare Residents Association, went to observe on our behalf and we had the executive of the organization beaten up. As ZESN we produced a statement condemning that. But the draw back is that we halted all activities in Kuwadzana,” Kandororo said.
Candidates in the most troubled constituency, Kuwadzana, deny that they are involved in any form of violence. The ruling party candidate Mr. David Mutasa says that the death of one of his supporters in January proves beyond a doubt who is involved in the trouble there.
As for accusations that he is buying votes by distributing mealie meal in the constituency Mr. Mutasa says that he is selling the mealie meal and only assisting people. He says no one will starve in Kuwadzana. He adds that he will strive to make the elections peaceful.
MDC candidate Nelson Chamisa says that they are the victims of violence and are not instigators.
“We are only involved in violence to the extent that we are caught as victims,” he said. “We are involved in violence as victims not as inciters we have never incited violence we have never at any time promoted violence in the constituency. In fact if anything our campaign manager Mr. Charlton Hwende has been at the forefront in trying to engage the police in dealing with Zanu PF. Zanu pf is the only party that has basis in the constituency, Zanu pf is the only party that is known to be carrying knobkerries, knives into the constituency.”
The police have been accused of being biased in their treatment of the two major parties. However, police spokesperson for Harare, District Chief Superintendent Bothwell Mugariri, says that the MDC is holding rallies without notifying the police as required under the public order and security act.
Mr. Mugariri says that the MDC is even attacking the police. He says one such incident, which took place in early March, led to the arrest of 21 MDC supporters. However, the MDC denies these charges and says the police have banned the party from campaigning even when they are notified.