The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) has called on the government to take action against suspected ruling ZANU PF party members who recently assaulted elderly opposition supporters in the northeast of the capital Harare.Expressing concern at the growing culture of impunity among ZANU PF supporters, the ZCBC demanded the prosecution of the assailants and provision of support to the victims of the violence by authorities.
“To curb nurturing such a culture we call upon the government through its various institutions to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice and may the victims of that violence be protected and given the necessary care,” the bishops said in a statement late Thursday.
In a video that has gone viral, suspected ZANU PF supporters disrupted a meeting of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in Murehwa North, about 100 kilometres northeast of Harare.
The ruling party supporters assaulted the mostly elderly opposition supporters and a voice could be heard asking the senior citizens as to what the CCC had done for them.
There have been no arrests so far despite the names of some of the assailants being known.
Ironically CCC lawmaker Job Sikhala has been languishing in remand prison for more than six months for demanding the arrest of a ZANU PF member who murdered an opposition supporter in June 2022.
As has become traditional, ZANU PF has disowned the assailants, with party spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa urging the victims to report their case to the police.
ZCBC called on the government, political parties and all institutions to ensure a level playing field ahead of Zimbabwe’s general elections scheduled for mid-2023.
“Equal opportunities should be given to all who want to participate in this coming election. There should be no fear or favour,” the ZCBC said.
It added: “As the nation heads towards the harmonized elections, we urge all political players to desist from the use of violence and the use of young people to commit violent crimes.”
The bishops called on all of Zimbabwe’s political parties to sell their ideologies and respect voters’ choices.
“There is no citizen who should be intimidated or coerced, and worse still, be beaten to make a choice. That speaks against human dignity.”
The Murehwa North violence has raised the spectre of a repeat of the state-sponsored violence that accompanied the 2008 presidential election run-off between former president Robert Mugabe and then main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai had marginally defeated Mugabe in the first round of polls held in March of the same year, but was not allowed to campaign in the run-up to the run-off.
The violence claimed hundreds of lives and was widely condemned by the international community.