13 March 2013
Democracy - a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Here in the UK we have our say every four or five years, without too much worry.
Yet for the people of Zimbabwe, their experience of elections could not be more different. Just as 2008 was beset with arrests and raids, threats of violence and intimidation, now 2013 – election year for Zimbabweans – brings with it more uneasy and anxious days leading up to polling day.
Raided by police
It’s with sadness and concern, then, we learn that one of Christian Aid’s partners, Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), was raided by the police on Monday 11 February.
On the grounds that ZPP had contravened the Immigration Act, six police officers searched the offices and seized items including annual reports, mobile phones and floppy disks. A colleague, too, was arrested, although later released.
Christian Aid’s country manager, Miriam Machaya, commented: ‘This is the stark reality which many Zimbabweans will now face, and in which our partners operate.
'It’s a worrying time and unfortunately such incidents will become more frequent as we head towards elections this year.’
She continued: ‘The team in Zimbabwe is appealing to churches and our other supporters for solidarity, prayers and thoughts so that we can find the energy, wisdom and fortitude to continue with our mandate of speaking out against injustice and being the voice of the voiceless in Zimbabwe.’
Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
As the threat of violence, intimidation and imprisonment looms large, the work of ZPP proves vital.
Zimbabwe Peace Project monitors and documents incidents of human rights violations and politically motivated breaches of peace.
Trained community-based volunteers help to identify early signs of potential violence, using the information they gather to strengthen community-based early warning systems.
Not only do the early warning systems allow communities to become aware of possible ‘hot spots’ and prepare accordingly, any emerging trends and patterns are extremely useful to the Church and others in formulating their response.
The information helps them to address issues of violence in the most affected areas.
Democracy, elections and having a say
The date of the Zimbabwe election has yet to be announced. However, the date for the constitutional referendum has been set for 16 March and it is expected that general elections will follow in June.
So, just think ahead to 2015, and the UK General Elections. As they draw ever closer, and the canvassers with clipboards come knocking, spare a thought for the people of Zimbabwe, for whom the coming months remain anxious and uncertain - all in the name of having a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
Christian Aid in Zimbabwe