Beyond Violence 

“Voices for Peace” Zimbabwe Campaign launches

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Press image Beyond Violence has just launched its Zimbabwe Campaign “Voices For Peace”. The campaign aims to prevent the political violence that has plagued the country during past elections. Beyond Violence hopes that by uniting Zimbabweans in a call for peace, people will break through the climate of fear and refuse to participate in violence, while political actors will listen to the people, and ensure the election is carried out peacefully, without fear or voter intimidation.

In order to bring together Zimbabweans across the entire country, Beyond Violence uses a unique combination of communications technology channels. They note the effect that online social media is having on these elections, promoting a freedom of opinion never seen before and providing a platform for more transparency in the political process.

The campaign utilises a variety of online social media spaces, but also combines these resources with radio, print and mobile phone technology.

Technical coordinator Richard Jolley states that “With free phone calls to sign the petition, every Zimbabwean and citizen of the world in possession of a mobile phone is able to make their voice heard.” He notes that this is an important part of politically empowering the entire populace as every sphere of society can be involved.

Amnesty International reports that during the second round of the 2008 Presidential elections more than 200 people were killed in state-sponsored violence, while thousands more were tortured and injured. To date, no police investigations have been undertaken, nor arrests made or charges laid, concerning the violence surrounding the run-off election and the years before.

Barnaby Locke, content manager for the campaign, believes that the introduction of Zimbabwe’s new constitution gives the government an opportunity to usher in a new era of constitutionalism and adherence to human rights beyond the established culture of violence.

“I believe that while the new constitution signifies a step forward for Zimbabwe, real change will occur when we see an election free from violence.”

Locke notes that in order for the constitution’s reforms to be effective, political actors need to be accountable to the will of the people and respect the rule of law.

With reports of violence already coming through from the primary elections, Beyond Violence stresses that this is a crucial time for joining voices to show perpetrators that violence will not be tolerated.

The campaign’s Zimbabwe coordinator points out that “The atmosphere in Harare at the moment is tense, it shows that Zimbabweans need to be able to freely choose who represents them - otherwise they will never feel politically empowered in their own country.”

“It’s not just about Zimbabwe - this election represents a stand for democracy. Every nation has the right to vote for the political party of their choice. Every citizen has the right to be involved in politics without fear.”

Beyond Violence states that this coming election may represent a major turning point for the country. “If all voices supporting peace unite to demand that political actors operate without violence then at some point they have to recognise the will of the people.”

The feedback from the petition has already started coming in strongly. One campaign supporter states, “As a Zimbabwean I do and strongly voice against the torture of my fellow brother, sister, mother and everyone.” Another notes, “Zimbabwe is a country which is being lead by Spirit. No to violence!” As Zimbabweans rally behind the stand for non-violence, the message is spreading.

The organisation states that by combining this kind of local and international pressure supporters can end violence in Zimbabwe. Beyond Violence urges everyone to join them by signing their petition and following campaign updates.

“We are at a critical moment where we are able to end the culture of political violence,” states Locke. “The question is: Will Zimbabwe unite in demanding the peace they deserve?”

In Zimbabwe, make a free phone call to sign the petition (you will receive a text message):

+263 77 15 75 004, +263 77 15 75 001

Here you can sign the petition online.

Follow the movement and join the discussion on peaceful elections on:

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Fact Box:

-Robert Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe for 33 years

-In the 2008 election, party members opposing Mugabe were threatened, tortured and murdered

-Zimbabwe has just implemented a new constitution involving electoral, media and security sector reforms to make the governing process more transparent and accessible

-The upcoming election will either signal a step towards democratic empowerment for Zimbabweans or a continuation of a culture of fear and thuggish political violence

-International attention can help ensure peace for these elections

Key media contacts:

Paul Steinhauer, Campaign Team Leader for Voices for Peace