Women, youths decry violence in campaigns
Harare (New Ziana) – Women and youths on Wednesday urged police and political parties to curb violence as it discourages their participation in this month’s harmonised elections.
Zimbabwe is holding Presidential, Parliamentary and local government elections on August 23 to choose new representatives for the next five years.
Addressing journalists, feminist group, Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) media and information technology officer Jessie Chihota said political violence remains one of the major hindrances to women’s participation in this year’s elections.
“The implications of this have already been felt where the number of women contesting as members of Parliament declined from 237 women out of 1 648 candidates in 2018 to 70 women out of 637 candidates contesting in 2023.
The percentage declined from 14 percent to 11 percent. If the Supreme Court upholds the High Court judgement to disqualify 12 Citizens Coalition for Change aspiring MPs from Bulawayo from contesting the 23 August elections, the number of women will decline to 66, that is 10 percent,” she said.
In 2018, Zimbabwe had a record four women contesting as presidential candidates, but in 2023 only one woman made it onto the ballot.
Chihota said the number is expected to decline further after the announcement of election results.
“Political violence, both covert and overt, remains one of the major hindrances to women’s full participation in elections. Women are exposed to political violence in different forms as election administrators, voters, candidates and intimate partners of male political leaders,” she said.
“Since January 2023 to date, Walpe has recorded many cases of human rights violations against women. These include threats of violence, online violence, sexual harassment, assault, arbitrary arrest, revenge pornography, body shaming and forced migration. Cases of violence against women varied from intra-party, inter-party and state sponsored violence.
“As such, Walpe recommends that the government, political parties and the police do all within their power to protect women from all forms of political violence and make sure perpetrators are punished,” she said.
Speaking at the same occasion, Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe representative, Anyway Kaguru said the youth views the current electoral environment as violent and unfavourable.
“Both pre-and post-election periods during previous elections have consistently featured many incidents of violence and intimidation,” he said.
Addressing a Zanu PF campaign rally in Nkayi last weekend, President Emmerson Mnangagwa reiterated his call for peace and tolerance as the country heads towards the harmonised polls.