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THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) must immediately investigate and disqualify candidates behind recurrent political violence that has rocked Hurungwe West ahead of the June 10 by-election, an election watchdog said on Thursday.

In a statement, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) condemned the surging politically motivated violence and intimidation against opposition supporters in the volatile constituency.

“ZEC must condemn and give warnings to intransigent political actors who defy democratic belonging and culture as prescribed in the constitution,” reads part of the statement.

Temba Mliswa, expelled as Zanu PF MP for the area and now vying to recover the seat as an independent, has continuously raised alarm on a number of violent incidences targeting his supporters.

In some instances, traditional leaders sympathetic to the former Zanu PF chair for Mashonaland West have allegedly been attacked and in some instances abducted by ZANU PF militia.

“We demand that ZEC must carry out an immediate investigation of the reported violence and intimidation in Hurungwe West.

“The ERC, implores upon ZEC to take action against perpetrators of violence and, in fact, disqualify them from participating in the by-election in line with Section 156 (c) (i) of the Zimbabwe Constitution which states that ‘at every election and referendum, ZEC must ensure that appropriate systems and mechanisms are put in place to eliminate electoral violence and other electoral malpractices,” the election watchdog said.

Local reports claim that headmen in Hurungwe West were handed exercise books by militant Zanu PF supporters and ordered to write down the names of all those they would lead to vote on election day.

Keith Guzah, the Zanu PF candidate for the constituency, has also allegedly ordered villagers to claim to be illiterate so they could be assisted to cast their votes.

Guzha has also allegedly threatened the same villagers to either vote for him or forget about receiving any more handouts from Zanu PF which are usually in the form of farm inputs and other food aid.

The ERC, a think tank and aocacy institution on democracy and elections, said ZEC must denounce the acts of violence.

“We are grossly disappointed by such electoral malpractice and most importantly we remain disturbed by the silence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the police and the Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs who is also the Vice President of the country, Hon Emmerson Mnangagwa,” said the ERC.

The group, which is campaigning for a transparent polling system in a country with a battered electoral history, said it remained concerned by the silence of respective authorities including the ZEC and the justice ministry.

“Their reluctance to act and ensure that the environment is conducive for the holding of free and fair elections is quite disturbing and has huge negative impact on not only the outcome of these elections but also on the participation of citizens in electoral processes.

“The failure to act also suggests collusion with the perpetrators and gives credence to arguments that ZEC is not politically independent,” the ERC said.

The group further urged government to ensure that ZEC was adequately funded for it to perform tasks without compromise and negligence to fundamental issues.

Hurungwe West constituency fell vacant after the ruling Zanu PF recalled Mliswa over a slew of offences which he was never called to answer to.

Source : New Zimbabwe