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  • UK based rights activists in plea for peaceful elections

    By Mark | June 27, 2013

    By Nomalanga Moyo

    SW Radio Africa

    London-based human rights activists marched Thursday to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s violent 2008 presidential election run-off and to appeal for peace ahead of this year’s poll.

    The protest was organised by justice and rights lobby group, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), who were joined by members of the UK’s Trades Union Congress and the Zimbabwe Vigil, outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in London.

    ACTSA head Tony Dykes told SW Radio Africa that the message of Thursday’s demo was two-pronged: “Firstly we were saying ‘Never Again’ to the 2008 violence, intimidation, killings, disappearances and rape. That shouldn’t happen.

    “Zimbabwe will hold elections again very soon and the second part of our message was that there should be free and fair elections to enable Zimbabweans to vote for whoever they want without fear of favour,” he said.

    Dykes said they were not demonstrating in support of any political party but the right of Zimbabweans to peacefully exercise their democratic right.

    “We were also calling for impartiality by the institutions of the state, and credible electoral processes, including allowing both domestic election observers and truly independent external election observer missions, in place well before the elections,” Dykes added.

    Dykes said his group was encouraged by signals from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which indicated that the regional bloc is acknowledging that the last election did not comply with its norms and standards.

    “And so while the demo wasn’t about SADC, it was in some ways in support of that SADC stance on Zimbabwe and trying to reinforce that message,” he said.

    In a statement released before the march, the TUC said: “It is the duty of the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure free and fair elections in a peaceful environment without violence and intimidation and in strict compliance with international standards. We do hope that the elections will usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and justice for all.”

    ZimVigil spokesperson Ephraim Tapa said: “As things stand free and fair elections are very unlikely because of intimidation and vote-rigging. We fear the election results will be cooked by ZANU PF.”

    After Thursday’s protest a ‘Tree of Hope’, covered with messages of hope for free and fair elections written on red paper roses, was carried to Southwark Cathedral. Red roses are used as a symbol of peace in Zimbabwe by the women’s movement.

    The Zimbabwean Embassy in London has been the location of weekly demos by the ZimVigil group since 2002.

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