Africa

Code to stem political violence in Zim hailed

Inyasha Chivara

A new code of conduct for Zimbabwe's political parties will bar perpetrators of political violence from taking part in electoral processes.

Human rights activist Munyaradzi Gwisai speaks to the press on March 21 2012, after a magistrate fined him and six others $500 each after they were convicted of plotting mass protests. (AFP)

The code will form part of the Electoral Act amendments.

As part of the penalties, offenders will be prohibited from campaigning during the election period in question and may not attend political meetings where more than three persons are present.

Sekai Holland, co-minister for national healing, reconciliation and integration, said the aim is to remove all forms of political violence among Zimbabweans. "We want human dignity to be respected. We now have infrastructure for peace through a legal framework, as embodied in the draft constitution."

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has not yet seen the proposed code but said it is necessary. "We shall use this to prevent all forms of political violence in future," he said.

Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) director Jestina Mukoko said the next elections will be intensely contested as they will end the life of the unity government.

By last November the ZPP, which monitors breaches of peace at community level, had already recorded more than 500 cases of political violence in the country.

Mukoko said a culture of impunity will make it difficult to implement the code.

"What remains to be seen this year is the transformation of words into deeds," she said.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights executive director Irene Petras said the political will of all parties will determine whether or not the code of conduct deals adequately with political violence.

"There is a need for the police to arrest perpetrators of violence because, if they are not arrested and prosecuted, impunity prevails and the code will just be an academic exercise," she said.

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