Community members in Buhera have expressed concern over the increasing demand for serial numbers of voter registration slips by Traditional Leaders and ZANU PF structures. This was revealed by community members from Buhera who attended a series of collaborative neutral platforms (nhimbes) conducted by Heal Zimbabwe in partnership with 6 Community Peace Clubs in Buhera from the 24th to the 27th of April 2018. Community members noted that the collection of serial numbers was a form of intimidation, hence it poses a serious threat to peace and coexistence in local communities. The collection of serial numbers also poses a threat to the secrecy of the vote and compromises the freeness and integrity of elections.
The collaborative platforms included harvesting of crops, clean up campaigns and road gulley and pothole filling exercises. The nhimbes drew a number of community leaders that include 9 village heads, 2 councillors and 1 Headman and 10 Village Development Committees (VIDCO) members. A total of 320 people were reached as a result of these activities. The nhimbes were conducted under Heal Zimbabwe’s countrywide National Peace Campaign dubbed 13 Million Voices For Peace, which seeks to raise public awareness on the need for peaceful coexistence, tolerance and participation in the upcoming 2018 elections.
Issues raised during the nhimbes include, the continuous demand for serial numbers of voter registration slips by some Traditional leaders, partisan distribution of food aid and victimisation of opposition supporters. Community members highlighted that intimidation remain prevalent in their communities as a result of the demand for collection of serial numbers. A community member (name withheld) highlighted that the collection of serial numbers of voter registration slips is a threat towards peaceful coexistence as this has potential of discouraging community members from peacefully participating in this year’s elections.
One Village head highlighted that indeed community members feel intimidated as a result of the collection of serial numbers and the partisan distribution of food aid. “I have received numerous reports by community members who have been intimidated by unscrupulous Traditional leaders and ZANU PF structures, with the 2018 elections approaching, this is very worrying”, he said.
Some Traditional leaders who attended the nhimbes urged community members to report cases of intimidation to the police and continue initiating activities that help build peace, tolerance and social cohesion.
The nhimbes managed to provide a platform for community leaders to interact with community members over critical issues that affect the local communities. Community peace clubs vowed to continue promoting peace and tolerance in public spaces through activities that include nhimbes, clean up campaigns, road maintenance exercises, door to door campaigns and sports tournaments especially as the nation draws close to the elections.
Since its inception Heal Zimbabwe has used collaborative neutral platforms as a mechanism of resolving conflicts, building peace and creating lasting relationships hinged on mutual respect and tolerance.