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Offences committed by those who have used violence and intimidation in connection with the elections in Zimbabwe | Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Offences committed by those who have used violence and intimidation in connection with the elections in Zimbabwe

A report compiled by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisations Forum

In the period leading up to elections violence, threats and intimidation have been extensively used to coerce voters. Politicians and their supporters have made statements suggesting that the ballot will not be secret and reprisals will be taken if people vote in certain ways. War veterans have threatened to take reprisals if people in a particular area vote against the ruling party. War veterans have also threatened to use violence if the opposition wins the election against the ruling party. We list below the various offences that have been committed by these persons in terms of Zimbabwean law.

Use of violence

Physical assaults
If the victims have died the assailants are guilty of murder or culpable homicide.

If the victims have been injured, the assailants can be charged with attempted murder, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm or assault depending upon the intention of the assailants and the severity of the injuries inflicted.

Destruction of or damage to property
Where houses have been set on fire, the culprits are guilty of arson.

Where household and other items belonging to others have been damaged or destroyed, the culprits are guilty of malicious injury to property.

Threats of violence
This can amount to an assault under common law and will also be chargeable under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. For instance in terms of s 30 of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act:

  • Any person who makes any statement indicating or implying that it would be incumbent or desirable to do any act or acts likely to bring death or physical injury to any person or to any class of persons is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding fourteen years.
  • Any person who threatens to do injury to some other person or to some class of persons or to the property of some other person or some class of persons, whether in the presence of such other person or class of persons or not, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years.

Offences under the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:01]

Section 105 Undue influence
A person commits an offence if he does any of the following:

  • directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person uses or threatens to use of any force, violence or restraint or any unnatural means upon or against any person;
  • inflicts or threatens to inflict by himself or by any other person any physical or psychological injury, damage, harm or loss upon or against any person;
  • does or threatens to do anything to the disadvantage of any person in order to induce or compel that person to sign a nomination paper or refrain from signing a nomination paper; or to vote or refrain from voting.

A person commits an offence if, by himself or by any other person, he does any of the following:

  • uses or threatens use of any force, violence or restraint upon or against any person;
  • inflicts or threatens to inflict by himself or by any other person any physical or psychological injury, damage, harm or loss upon or against any person;
  • does or threatens to do anything to the disadvantage of any person on account of that person having signed or refrained from signing a nomination paper; or having voted or refrained from voting at any election.

A person commits an offence if by abduction, duress, threats to invoke any unnatural means or references to such unnatural means or by fraudulent device or contrivance impedes or prevents the exercise of his vote by a voter; or compels, induces or prevails upon a voter either to vote or to refrain from voting at an election;

Whilst offences under s 105(3) of the Electoral Act attract a relatively weak penalty relatively weak penalty, this section should be read with s 124 of the Electoral Act. In terms of section 132 of the Electoral Act any candidate who loses an election in a constituency where there has been rampant intimidation, can bring an election petition and can obtain an order in terms of section 136(3) setting aside the election of the elected member. In terms of section 124 of the Electoral Act if the High Court certifies that any corrupt practise, which includes an offence in terms of section 105 referred to above, has been committed by another candidate or with the knowledge and consent or approval of the candidate or by or with the knowledge and consent or approval of any of his agents, the election of that candidate is void and a fresh election must then be held.

Furthermore in terms of section 124(b) if the candidate is found to have committed a corrupt practise that candidate may be declared by the High Court to be incapable, for a period not exceeding five years from the date of the finding, of being registered as a voter or holding certain public offices.

Offences under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act [Chapter 11:07]

Section 27(f)
Any person who demands that any person should join or refrain from joining a political party or endeavours to compel a person to do so is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years.

Section 27(g)
Any person who demands from some other person the production of any document, badge or other thing whatsoever signifying that such other person is a member of any particular political party is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years.

Section 28(2)
No person shall acquire or ask for or use any words or any signal to indicate that he is requiring or asking for the production or giving by any person of any “political token”, which includes any badge, emblem, symbol, insignia, card, receipt, password or other article, thing or expression denoting membership of, adherence to or support of a political party. Any person guilty of such an offence is liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year.

Threats to use force against a democratically elected government

This is tantamount to a threat to commit the crime of treason by overthrowing a constitutionally elected government.

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