Biased police conduct taints elections

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has stirred controversy through their conduct toward the main opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) ahead of the 2023 harmonized elections.

Since the party’s formation in January 2022, the police have been banning the opposition’s rallies on pretext that range from lack of manpower or the venue being purportedly booked by other entities.

According to an 8 July press statement by the CCC spokesperson, Fadzai Mahere, “To date, Zanu-PF has abused state institutions and used political violence, unlawful arrests, and intimidation to disrupt or ban over 92 CCC meetings or rallies since we were formed in January 2022.”

According to Mahere, the rally was among six rallies banned within a week less than two months to the election on 23 August 2023. Where the police have allowed the opposition rallies to continue they have put stringent restrictions such as the prohibition of bussing of supporters.

This means that when the nomination court sits, party-lists will have to cater for these proportional representation positions. The proclamation states “that the nomination of party-list candidates for the Senate, the National Assembly and provincial councils shall take place on the same date and venue as the nomination for the constituency National Assembly candidates.”

The bans or restrictions have not been extended to the ruling party which has been conducting its rallies, evidently bussing people with hundreds of buses, without hindrance. The police conduct has raised complaints of an unfair political environment towards elections.

The bans which violate the Constitution’s section 67 have made President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s pledge to ensure free and fair elections ring hollow. Stung by the allegations of a sham elections by civil society, the opposition and analysts the police have leaked a memo dated 8 July meant for provincial commanders, instructing them to stop restricting opposition rallies.

“Of late, social media has been awash with incidences where political parties claim to have been denied the right to hold their rallies by the police resulting in skirmishes,” the memo said, whose authenticity the police confirmed on its Twitter on July 10. “These skirmishes are discrediting the electoral processes, as such, commanders are requested to ensure that political parties are allowed to hold rallies unless there are very valid reasons to warrant such rejections.”

Barely days after the memo police notifications were circulated on social media showing continue bans of opposition rallies, including in Gokwe South and Zengeza East. Though the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is mandated by Section 239 of the Constitution to instruct people employed by the State to ensure free and fair elections, the commission has ignored these developments.