The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is reporting that the people of Wedza North, Mashonaland East province, started voting peacefully this morning, but in Mashonaland West’ Hurugwe West constituency, where another parliamentary by-election will take place June 10, violence is said to be escalating.
ZEC says there were no reports of violence in Hwedza North where the ruling Zanu-PF is facing off with some smaller opposition parties. Few people are said to have gone to the polling stations in the morning with most of them casting their votes during the day.
But in Hurungwe West where Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko was visiting, it was a different tale. Members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and those backing independent candidate Temba Mliswa say state security agents were on the rampage targeting them and forcing some schools and shopping centers to temporarily shut down.
MDC spokesman for Mashonaland West, Wilson Makanyaire, says his party members were beaten up Friday.
This was confirmed by the Zimbabwe Peace Project director, Jestina Mukuko, who says their members are confirming these incidents.
Efforts to get a comment from Mphoko or Zanu-PF spokesman, Simon Khaya Moyo, were unsuccessful as they did not answer their mobile calls. But Zanu-PF politiburo member, Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, dismissed the allegations of violence.
The director of the Election Resource Centre, Tawanda Chimhini, says all candidates who are alleged to be perpetrating violence must be disqualified.
Thechairm Elasto Mugwadi of the newly established national rights institution, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, confirms that it has sent a team to probe the violence.
Some human rights groups have also called upon ZEC to postpone the Hurungwe West by-election allleging that the situation is not conducive for the holding of a free and fair election.
Efforts to get a comment from ZEC chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau, were futile as her phone went unansewered. But those monitoring elections and Mliswa confirm they have asked her to probe the escalating tensions in Hurungwe West.