Zimbabwe by-elections marred by ‘vote-buying, intimidation; irregularities’

As Zimbabwe heads for by-elections on Saturday the process has been marred by allegations of vote-buying, intimidation and irregularities.

The country has 133 seats up for grabs in the by-elections, comprising 28 parliamentary seats and 105 local council seats, emanating from recalls, deaths or dismissals.

Ahead of the by-elections, videos have been  circulating on social media depicting alleged Zanu-PF officials distributing cash, groceries and fertiliser in exchange for votes.

This has dented the credibility of the polls.

“In Zimbabwe it is illegal to vote-buy, but the law is being blatantly broken by the ruling party Zanu-PF,” said Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on social media.

“Citizens are being openly paid cash and given groceries across the country and the video is there for all to see. But nothing will be done.”

The by-elections will be the first the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) is participating in. CCC rallies have been restricted, others have been banned and characterised by violent clashes between Zanu-PF and CCC supporters. One person has been killed and 22 injured.

Last week, a CCC supporter was arrested and allegedly tortured in police custody.

According to a human rights report by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), there has been an increase in political violence and the by-elections are a test run for the general elections next yet

“There is marginal increase in the number of politically motivated human rights violations to a total of 70 in February, from the 55 recorded in January. The majority of the violations recorded are serious and severe and this means there were more cases of assault and threats to citizens’ lives,” the report read.

“For Zanu-PF, it is clear that the target is not the March 26 by-elections but instead it is the 2023 harmonised elections, and the time is now to intimidate people and create an atmosphere of fear such that by the time elections are held in 2023, many people will not be as free to express themselves.”

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