Zimbabwe opposition fears skewed election over crackdown, bias

Saturday February 18 2023
Supporters listen to Zimbabwe main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa

Supporters listen to Zimbabwe main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change outside Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP


Fears are growing in Zimbabwe of another disputed poll, considering the ongoing political violence and a clampdown on the opposition.

The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), which was formed a year ago, says police have banned 63 of its campaign meetings this year for unclear reasons.

Human rights groups are also recording rising cases of political violence against opposition supporters across the country, which is blamed on security forces and supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), an NGO that monitors human-rights violations, said the ruling party and the government were squeezing the democratic space ahead of the elections between July and August.

“Law enforcement agents and the ruling party continue to subject Zimbabwe citizens to gross human-rights violations,” the ZPP said in its latest monitoring report.

Political pluralism


“Zanu PF activists are systematically closing space for political pluralism, making it difficult for opposition supporters to attend and conduct their meetings. Citizens, mostly from rural communities, are being barred and banned from attending opposition meetings and, in most cases, forced or coerced to attend ruling party meetings. As the elections draw near, there is a rise of infringements on citizens' rights.”

ZPP said some of the violations included Zanu PF activists forcing people in rural areas to submit their national identity documents, which was a way of intimidating potential voters to join the ruling party.

“Political intolerance has reached high levels, and the tense environment has the potential to brew more violence and electoral malpractices in the coming months,” it added.

Former Education minister and veteran opposition leader David Coltart said CCC was now effectively banned in Zimbabwe, as police were used to block its rallies.

“It’s clear that Zanu PF has banned CCC,” Mr Coltart said. “Our structures have been applying to have meetings throughout Zimbabwe and every trick in the book is used to prevent these meetings from taking place. Even when we have private meetings people are arrested.”


Last month, CCC members, including two MPs, were arrested in Harare for allegedly holding an illegal meeting.

CCC said its members were arrested at a private meeting at a local legislator’s house.

One of the first independent surveys done this week showed that CCC’s Nelson Chamisa would defeat President Emmerson Mnangagwa 53 percent against 40 percent, were free and fair elections held today.

The survey was done by the London-based SABI Strategy Group for the Brenthurst Foundation, which is based in South Africa. London is not usually a favoured word in Harare, with the UK have influenced sanctions on Zimbabwe for its Mugabe-era policies of land reclamation from white settlers.

Dark times revisited

Mr Coltart said President Mnangagwa was sensing defeat, and clamping down on the main opposition.

“Zanu-PF are clearly petrified of a clean and fair election battle against CCC and are using everything possible to prevent it from campaigning. We will not be deterred and we will prevail. Freedom will come to Zimbabwe.”

“Police are systematically denying permission for the CCC to hold rallies across Zimbabwe in this election year. There is no war or threat to peace. This is purely designed to stem the tidal wave of support for the CCC and its presidential candidate.”

Second full term

President Mnangagwa, 80, will seek a second full term in office after winning the disputed 2018 polls against a 45-year-old Mr Chamisa, who rejected the results saying the polls were rigged.

Zimbabwe has a long history of political violence during elections with the ruling Zanu PF repeatedly accused of attacking its opponents.

After the 2018 elections, soldiers shot dead six protestors in the capital Harare after protests erupted over delays in the release of presidential election results.

In the 2008 polls, more than 200 opposition supporters were killed and thousands were displaced by political violence blamed on the ruling party and security forces.

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti accused the President and Zanu PF of trying to turn Zimbabwe into a one party state by intimidating people from joining political parties of their choice.

“The recent violence unleashed on citizens in Murewa is completely unacceptable,” said Mr Biti, the CCC deputy party leader.

“Over the years, houses have been burnt, people killed and displaced. 2008 was one of the worst years against citizens when (rural areas) became sites of bloodshed and torture. It is time to stop the murders and the entrenched culture of impunity.”

Political violence

The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Council warned that political violence would dent the credibility of the polls.

“As the nation heads towards the harmonised elections, we urge political players to desist from violence,” they said in a statement.

“The people’s fundamental rights should be respected at all times. There is no citizen who should be intimidated, coerced, and worse still, be beaten to make a choice.