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ED under pressure over Chamisa attacks

In an exclusive interview with The Standard on Thursday, outgoing EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen  urged the Zanu PF leader to abide by the constitution and allow the opposition to campaign freely.

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA THE European Union (EU) has urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to allow the opposition to campaign freely following increasing violent attacks on Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) members by suspected Zanu PF supporters.

Ruling party fanatics unleashed violence on CCC members last week to block opposition leader Nelson Chamisa from addressing campaign rallies as political tensions heat up months away from the 2023 polls.

Scores of CCC supporters were injured in Wedza, Murewa and Gokwe last week in violent attacks by Zanu PF youth to block Chamisa from addressing his supporters.

#𝐍𝐞𝐰 #𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐏𝐚𝐩𝐞𝐫🔵'𝐋𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐨𝐟 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞'𝐬 𝐩𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐜𝐚𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐫𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐙𝐢𝐦𝐛𝐚𝐛𝐰𝐞' 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐨 𝐎𝐥𝐤𝐤𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐧 pic.twitter.com/nFraPQf4Nv

— The Standard Zim (@thestandardzim) August 30, 2022

Chamisa also survived two assassination attempts last year while on his rural voter mobilisation tours.

Police have on several occasions blocked the CCC from holding rallies, while allowing Mnangagwa and other Zanu PF members to hold the same.

In an exclusive interview with The Standard on Thursday, outgoing EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen  urged the Zanu PF leader to abide by the constitution and allow the opposition to campaign freely.

“Elections are very important for any democracy. We need to give people the right to vote, to express their political preferences and mandate for them to be governed. That is why 2023 will be an important year for Zimbabwe,” Olkkonen said.

“The good thing about the 2018 election was the campaigning period prior to the election day itself.

“Of course, we have had unfortunate events of the first of August and after, but prior to that, one would witness that the campaigning period was free from violence, free for campaigning without harassment.

“That will be good if the campaigning freedom could be replicated in next year’s election.”

In August 2018, six civilians were killed when soldiers opened live ammunition on post-election protesters demanding the release of presidential election results.

#𝐍𝐞𝐰 #𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐏𝐚𝐩𝐞𝐫🔵'𝐖𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐲 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐙𝐢𝐦𝐛𝐚𝐛𝐰𝐞 𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐥 𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐮𝐞𝐬 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐰𝐞 𝐝𝐨 𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐞 𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐮𝐞𝐬' 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐨 𝐎𝐥𝐤𝐤𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐧 pic.twitter.com/cj3pAMIjbZ

— The Standard Zim (@thestandardzim) August 29, 2022

Mnangagwa appointed a commission led by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to investigate the killings.

The aim was to punish the perpetrators and find lasting solutions to avoid the same to happen.

But four years later, there have been no arrests or prosecutions.

“I wouldn’t say that we need to copy everything that was done in 2018 but at least the fact that all political parties campaign freely and that is something that I hope to see in the upcoming election,” Olkkonen said.

In May, the European Union Observer Mission (EUOM) said Zimbabwe had failed to implement its recommendations and other electoral reforms to guarantee free and fair elections in 2023.

The EU mission made 23 recommendations after the disputed 2018 elections, including the alignment of the Electoral Act to the Constitution and that the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) must be observed.

“The recommendations are based on international best practices. They are not European recommendations but they are from experts who have a lot of experience on how elections work around the world.

“So I think there is still time for electoral reforms but the window opportunity is obviously closing,” Olkkonen said.

Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa yesterday accused the opposition of provoking ruling party supporters, resulting in political violence.

#𝐍𝐞𝐰 #𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐏𝐚𝐩𝐞𝐫🔵'𝐙𝐢𝐦𝐛𝐚𝐛𝐰𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐟𝐚𝐬𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐟𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐥𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲' 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐨 𝐎𝐥𝐤𝐤𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐧 pic.twitter.com/ROwZ1PEKYa

— The Standard Zim (@thestandardzim) August 29, 2022

“Police say they have reports of violence from across the political divide.  Notwithstanding the heat of by-elections, such violence is uncalled for as we seek unity and harmony in a democratic dispensation,” Mutsvangwa said.

“That said, the President called on party supporters not to fall into provocations by an opposition which organizes rallies that are bent on trolling Zanu PF.”

Analysts and independent election watchdogs have warned of a violent run-up to the 2023 elections.

On Friday, Chamisa ruled out boycotting elections over political violence and failure to implement electoral reforms.

Chamisa narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in the disputed 2018 elections.

The Constitutional Court however upheld Mnangagwa’s victory, but Chamisa insists he was cheated out of victory.

Mnangagwa has been endorsed as Zanu PF’s presidential candidate, and is likely to square off with Chamisa again as his main challenger for the presidency.

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