Previous elections held in 2008 and 2013 have been marred by cases of political violence that include intimidation, rape and torture of both voters and candidates alike.
It is this past experience of elections that accounts for the youths and especially young women not taking part in the political process. It would seem, however, that 2018, has brought about a notable shift in their willingness to participate. The youth and women constitute more than half of people registered under the new Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process. Both groups are expected to play an important role in the election outcome.
In its outreach programming with young women in the high-density suburb of Highfields, Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace (ZYWNP) has recorded testimonies that indicate to the fact that so far this pre-election period is quieter and more peaceful. This, they say, is unlike what they have grown accustomed to.
Despite these testimonies, it is unlikely that this election will be completely devoid of conflict or intimidation. Some new and young voters are still afraid to express their political opinion and preference. This is worsened by the reports in some rural and peri-urban communities, where politicians are still demanding voters to surrender their voter’s registration slips to them.
The ZYWNP has been raising awareness among women that while the demands for the registration slips is criminal, it is just a technique that is being used to intimidate voters with no effect. This includes raising awareness that the voter registration slip is simply a confirmation that an individual is registered voter and that no political party can use it to identify individual votes that are cast on polling day.
Women have also noted that campaign strategies have also changed this time around. Unlike in the past where the political parties used coerced attendance, political candidates now use subtle means of bribing and incentivizing the electorate. According to women that attended a community meeting in Warren Park, food, money and other material goods are used to bribe the voters. This tactic was used largely in the rural areas, targeted at the poorer and unemployed members of society.
However, the continuously deteriorating economic environment has made this tactic appeal to even the urban voter. As the primary care givers, women are the most vulnerable to vote buying. This undemocratic and unconstitutional practice should be stopped as it results in the manipulation of women and youths in the election.
About the author:
Patience Thauzeni current programs Officer at Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace building. She has volunteered with Sally women’s institute training women on conflict management in 2016. Believes that story telling connects us and informs part of our learning and inquiry.
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