Rights groups say a brutal attack on Zimbabwe opposition supporters was clearly intended to harass and intimidate them ahead of elections expected later this year.
Amnesty International called on Zimbabwe to fully investigate a video showing ruling-party youth beating and kicking older supporters of the Citizens Coalition for Change (Triple C).
The video, which has gone viral on social media, showed some elderly members of the Triple C being assaulted over the weekend in Murehwa about 100 kilometers east of Harare.
Fadzayi Mahere, Triple C spokeswoman, has accused the ruling Zanu-PF party of masterminding the violence and blamed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the police for failing to stop it.
“This violence does not augur well for a free and fair election,” she said. “In fact, political violence of this nature is criminal. We call upon Zanu-PF to stop inciting violence. We saw the deputy leader of Zanu-PF saying: the Triple C must be crushed like lice, saying Nelson Chamisa should be killed. It’s that conduct which leads these terror gangs to do what they are doing.”
Chamisa, a former parliament member and cabinet minister, is the 44-year-old leader of the Triple C.
In response to an interview request, Tafadzwa Mugwadi, director of information for Zanu-PF, sent VOA an audio clip disputing it was his party which caused the violence, which injured seven people from the opposition.
“On its part, Zanu-PF does not tolerate any violence or this barbaric conduct whatsoever,” he said. President [Emmerson] Mnangagwa has clearly and unequivocally set the record clear on peaceful and mobilization for free and violence free elections. Whoever commits violence in the name of the party, shall carry his or her own cross and account. Let the police do what they know best: investigation.”
After the video circulated, Zimbabwe police released a statement saying they are investigating the incident.
Rights group Amnesty International says it wants Zimbabwean authorities to “urgently launch a thorough, independent and impartial investigation” into the assaults and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Amnesty’s spokesman in southern Africa, Robert Shivambu, said the attack would intimidate members of the political opposition ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections, and could have a chilling effect throughout the country.
“This callous, politically motivated attack against older people who had simply attended a gathering for a political opposition party is outrageous,” he said. “Such cruel acts of violence, which have repeatedly marred Zimbabwe’s political landscape in the past, gravely threaten the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The Zimbabwean authorities must take all necessary steps to prevent acts of politically motivated violence and refrain from issuing inflammatory statements that could incite similar attacks or deter people from expressing support to political parties of their choice.”
Several of Zimbabwe’s elections have been marred by violence, most of which targeted the opposition.
That is why the Zimbabwe Peace Project has set up an app for citizens to report cases of violence or intimidation ahead of the 2023 general election.
Thandolwenkosi Mahaja, the program’s coordinator explained how her organization’s “Reject, Resist and Report Violence” app works.
“[It] gives citizens the ability to report human rights violations from across Zimbabwe,” she said. “To report those violations, and name and tell us what is happening in their communities. We urge citizens to use this app particularly as we are coming to the elections this year in 2023.”
The Zimbabwe Peace Project hopes the app will reduce cases of violence and intimidation as the country prepares for polls whose exact date is yet to be announced.