Well over 100 ROHR Zimbabwe activists thronged the Zimbabwe Electoral Offices on Friday 12th July demanding that voter registration be continued until all young people and the so-called aliens are registered to vote in the upcoming plebiscite. Messages on their placards included “my vote, my right”, “allow diaspora vote”, “vote in peace”, “free and fair election” and many more. Passers-by in Harare, surprised at the bravery of these gallant men and women, could only marvel and cheer the peaceful procession. A few members of the public though could not resist the temptation to join but many stayed on the side-lines in fear of what could happen. An election petition was handed over to a representative at the ZEC offices and another at the Home Affairs ministry.
Sally Mutseyami, Publicity & Information Secretary of the ROHR UK Chapter, spoke to some of the participants soon after the demonstration. According to Mr James Ndoro, one of the co-ordinators, the event was originally scheduled to commence at 11 am. However, they chose to delay the start for strategic reasons. On arrival at the ZEC offices at around 12:30pm, they found an armoured police vehicle with riot police, which appeared to have been lying in wait for them, preparing to leave the venue. It would appear that the element of surprise and the strategic move to delay the demonstration was crucial to the successful outcome of the event. As soon as the police van drove away, activists felt safe enough to start the protest and they quickly pulled out their posters and banners – all with the ROHR Zimbabwe logo.
Onlookers who watched intently from a distance, afraid to take part, reminded participants of the danger of what they were doing and the fact that Zimbabwe was still a military state. Clearly, Zimbabweans are still gripped with fear of arbitrary arrest, harassment and torture should they choose to freely associate or express themselves like any other citizen of the free world. In apparent defiance, the demonstrators sang and danced, chiding the ZEC for denying the right to vote to many and challenging the ZEC Chairperson Rita Makarau to do the right thing.
Once the petition was handed over, the demonstration quickly moved to the Ministry of Home Affairs where activists expected to petition a minister. However, both ministers were said to be away from their offices, leaving them with no option but to leave the signed petition with one of the officials. They dispersed soon after, worried that police might accost them.
James Ndoro explained that participants were fully aware of the possibility of police harassment, brutality and even possible imprisonment as memories of the bloody 2008 election were still fresh. But true to the “voice of the voiceless” ROHR motto, activists braved the tyranny. In his final words, Mr James Ndoro said “If the election is for the people, then the people should be allowed to vote”.
Other ROHR activists interviewed voiced their appreciation of the logistical support received from the ROHR UK Chapter and their preparedness to continue with the campaign until their grievances are addressed. When contacted, Mr Ephraim Tapa, ROHR Zimbabwe President and Founder, emphasised the 2013 election would not pass the credibility test with 4 million diaspora Zimbabweans being denied the right to vote, hundreds of thousands of young people and the so-called aliens not registered to vote, international observers blocked, state media still biased and partisan implementation of the rule of law, among other things. He added that the result would be a sham election with a pre-determined outcome. He concluded by saying this election was a non-event to all those who had been denied the right to vote and that protests in demand of a free and fair election would continue abroad and at the home front, pre and post the election.
By Sally Mutseyami, ROHR UK, Information and Publicity