The U.N. Human Rights Office is warning about rising tensions as presidential and parliamentary elections draw near in Zimbabwe. The OHCHR is also appealing to the government and all political parties to ensure that elections are peaceful.
July 30th will mark the first elections in Zimbabwe since former president Robert Mugabe was forced to resign last November after 37 years in power. State-sponsored violence that usually characterized elections during the Mugabe years has been notably absent during the current pre-election campaign.
U.N. Human Rights Office spokeswoman Liz Throssel says it is encouraging to see political rallies and peaceful demonstrations in the capital, Harare, and the cautious optimism expressed by civil society.
"We remain concerned however at the increasing number of reports, particularly in some rural areas, of voter intimidation, threats of violence, harassment and coercion, including people being forced to attend political rallies," she added.
Zimbabwe's constitution reserves 60 seats for women in the 270-member parliament. Despite the legally-enforced quota system, Throssel said women political candidates are being met with resistance and hostility and are subjected to disparaging language.
"Now, the kind of disparaging language is really not going to come to any surprise," she told VOA. "It is targeting them on the basis of them being women, calling them bra-burning feminists, calling them sort-of sub-standard candidates, attacking them personally."
The constitutional quota system, which is set to expire before the 2023 elections is creating uncertainty about the future participation of women in politics.
U.N. Human Rights Officials say violence and other forms of intimidation must not be allowed to mar what could and should be a credible election process, free of fear for all Zimbabweans.