The month of February was testimony to the lack of political tolerance that still persists in Zimbabwe especially during election periods. In many areas, political victimization and violence surrounded preparations for Zimbabwe’s 6th Parliamentary election since the country obtained independence in 1980.
Voting took place on 31 March 2005. In Makoni North, drunken soldiers are reported to have assaulted MDC supporters at a meeting for not having authorization from the army. POSA stipulates that only the police need be notified of such meetings. Some army deserters were allegedly arrested in connection with the incident.
MDC activists in Shamva were reportedly arrested for putting up campaign posters in the area and in Chimanimani, 3 MDC Parliamentary candidates were assaulted by soldiers on their way from the launch of the MDC Parliamentary campaign. All the above and many other incidents recorded herein point towards a culture of intolerance in which it is difficult to argue that the March 2005 elections were free and fair.
The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association was violated in February when the NCA demonstration dubbed “no election without new constitution” led to assaults and unlawful arrests by police details who not only dispersed the demonstrators but also pursued and arrested some of them. In Bulawayo, WOZA women demonstrated to commemorate Valentine’s Day under the theme “the power of love will conquer the love of power”. After the demonstration, police allegedly arrested anyone they found in the area dressed in red and white clothing including Methodist Church women who were dressed in their red and white church uniforms and a 16-year-old girl who was buying medication for her bed-ridden sister. The Human Rights Forum condemns the manner in which peaceful demonstrations are quashed by the police and recommends that the government respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which it is party which stipulates that “everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”.