The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) says it received a total of 61 election-related human rights violations between January and June this year, with the ruling party Zanu PF fingered in most of the cases.
The ZHRC is a constitutional commission that is mandated to promote, protect and enforce human rights and fundamental freedoms through its complaints handling, education and monitoring departments.
Zimbabwe will hold harmonised presidential, parliamentary and council elections on 23 August.
The rights commission said it was investigating the alleged violations.
Speaking at a pre-election training workshop for political parties, duty bearers and other stakeholders in Bulawayo on Tuesday, the ZHRC director for complaints and investigations, Kurai Makumbe, revealed that some perpetrators of political violence had been arrested following their investigations.
“This year, from January to June 2023, the commission has received in total 438 cases of which 61 are electoral related cases. The 61 cases can be classified into equality and non-discrimination, political rights, right to administrative justice, right to human dignity, right to food, freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and freedom of assembly and association,” said Makumbe.
The training was attended by representatives of various political parties, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), civic society and church leaders.
Chairperson of the ZHRC Dr Elasto Hilarious Mugwadi was also present at the seminar.
Makumbe said the majority of cases received and investigated so far included the manipulation of voters through partisan food aid distribution by those in authority.
“For example, (in some cases) only members aligned to the ruling party are registered. Sometimes those that purport to belong to or are aligned to a certain political party do not even need to meet the criteria required under the Pfumvudza/ Intwasa programme,” she said.
The programme is meant to help small-scale farmers with inputs such as fertilizer and seed.
The ZHRC official listed out Murewa, Mutoko and Gutu as among the areas from where they received complaints of opposition supporters being assaulted.
In some instances, Makumbe said, village heads were also acting as Zanu PF cell leaders in their respective villages yet they are supposed to be non-partisan.
“ZHRC launched an investigation into a series of acts of political violence in Gutu committed by certain members of Zanu PF. ZHRC engaged CID headquarters and the Officer Commanding Police and he (alleged culprit) was later arrested for the acts,” he said.
A senior Zanu PF member, Energy Mutodi, was reported for shooting at opposition Coalition for Citizen Change (CCC) supporters in Bikita, Masvingo province, on 6 June.
Mutodi is the Bikita South Zanu PF parliamentary candidate and a former deputy Information minister.
He allegedly shot twice at the CCC supporters who were waiting to be addressed by Nelson Chamisa, the coalition leader who is fighting President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the presidential election.
The supporters had reportedly confronted him for coming to their gathering and there were no reported injuries or fatalities.
Mutodi claimed that the opposition supporters were stoning his vehicle.
In January, alleged Zanu PF members were captured on video assaulting elderly CCC members in Murewa, Mashonaland East, who were forced to flee into the mountains to escape the violence.
The victims who sustained injuries were Morris Seremani (74), Susan Seremani (56), Beauty Chikoti (52), Chipo Mutizwa (37), Nyaradzai Chitauro (52), one Dongo (79) and Munyaradzi Dongo (38) a were left nursing injuries following the assault.
President Mnangagwa has repeatedly called for peace ahead of the general elections, but violence involving both the ruling party and opposition members has sporadically broken out.
Added Makumbe: “On food aid (and) discrimination on political grounds, after ZHRC’s interventions, some complainants were able to receive the aid from these schemes, for example in Mount Darwin (sic),” said Makumbe.
After ZHRC investigations and engagement with Agritex, District Development Coordinators (DDC), village heads and councillors, complainants were also able to receive their allocations.