Rights groups, trade unions mark Zimbabwe 2008 election run off anniversary

As Zimbabwe heads to the polls later this year, rights and civic groups in London unite in a  campaign for nonviolent, free and fair elections.

Original caption: President of Zimbabwe Robert...

President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Zimbabwe Vigil mark the 2008 presidential election run off anniversary with a protest against political violence on Thursday, 27 June 2013. The event takes place from 1pm till 2 pm outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London.

The presidential election of 2008 was characterised by unprecedented violence that led to torture, killings and disappearances of those accused of supporting the opposition.

Following the indecisive  election in March 2008, ZANU (PF) carried out a brutal campaign of violence against innocent people prior to the June run-off for the presidency.  Hundreds of people got raped, beaten or tortured while  many more became refugees in their own country. Members of civic groups such as Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and Sokwanele came under attacks through intimidation and harassment.

The 2008 elections were the bloodiest since Independence in 1980.

Today political tension heightens as security forces linked to Mr Mugabe’s ZANU-PF are unleashing terror on supporters of Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC. According to media reports Zanu PF has deployed militia groups countrywide in order to thwart the MDC formations’ attempts to woo rural voters.

The Thursday protest by ACTSA, TUC and Zimbabwe Vigil carries the message, ‘Never Again!’ to brutal violence in the run up to elections. Organisers support the calls for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

The protest demands for:

  • Zimbabweans to have the right to vote freely for whom they wish without fear or favour
  • An accurate and up to date voter roll
  • Fair access to and coverage by state controlled media
  • Impartiality by institutions of the state
  • Domestic election observers and truly independent external election observer missions in place well before the elections.

Zimbabweans over the years experienced brutal violence and intimidation in the run-up to elections. The worst political violence happened after the 2008 presidential elections. Members of President Mugabe’s ZANU (PF); the police, the army and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents commit acts of terror on innocent people with impunity.

Tony Dykes, Director of Action for Southern Africa, said: “Five years after the terrible violence of 2008 we have seen very little of the essential reforms that are needed for free and fair elections.

“We are calling for Zimbabweans to have the right to choose their leaders without external interference and without internal repression, without the fear of violence, harassment or a rigged electoral system that favours one party over another;” he added.

The TUC demands for an election where Zimbabweans vote freely without fear as their democratic right.

In a statement the TUC said: “It is the duty of the Government of Zimbabwe to make sure there are free and fair elections in a peaceful environment without violence and intimidation and in strict compliance with international standards.”

The TUC hopes that ‘the elections will usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and justice’ for all Zimbabweans.

Ephraim Tapa, Zimbabwe Vigil spokesperson, observed: “As things stand free and fair elections are very unlikely because of intimidation and vote-rigging. We fear the election results will be cooked by ZANU ( PF).”

Tapa believes the European Union’s business interests should not be at the expense of  Zimbabweans who struggle against all odds to make ends meet.

Organisers of the Thursday protest plan to carry a ‘Tree of hope’ to Southwark Cathedral. The tree bears messages of hope for free and fair elections.  Southwark Cathedral and Zimbabwe have strong links that date back to 1991. The Diocese of Southwark has ties with three Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe.

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