The Zimbabwean government’s failure to carry out legal and electoral reforms threatens the credibility of national elections scheduled for July 30, a rights group has said.

In statement, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s repeated promise for a free and fair election, the ability of voters
to freely choose their leaders was in serious doubt.

“President Mnangagwa
needs to go beyond mere rhetoric and take genuine steps to level the playing
field for all candidates and their parties,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “A key test will
be whether state media give equal coverage and access to all political parties
without bias or favor.”

HRW said that it had conducted interviews across the country and found that security forces were involved in the electoral process.

“Zimbabwe’s military
and other state security forces have for many years interfered in the nation’s
political and electoral affairs, adversely affecting the right of Zimbabweans
to vote for the candidates of their choice.

“Mnangagwa and his administration
should level the electoral playing field by preventing the military from
engaging in partisan politics or interfering in electoral processes, and taking
strong action to deter violence and intimidation by the military during the
campaign period and elections,” said HRW.

This came a few days after Mnangagwa said that the electoral “playing field” was “perfectly level”, following the uninterrupted demonstration by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance in Harare on Tuesday.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Mnangagwa said that opposition parties were now enjoying democracy and were supposed to be happy that they were able to express themselves freely.

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“They are enjoying democracy which exist in this country,” Mnangagwa was quoted as saying.

“I think they are so happy that there is an environment where they can express themselves right, left and centre. But of course in relation to the forthcoming harmonised elections, already less than two week ago, I signed into law the reforms relating to the electoral act, so the playing field is perfectly level.”

Two other rights group have also raised their concern over the plebiscite, saying several reforms were needed to ensure a credible vote and make a “break with the past”.

The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute called for a more transparent voters’ roll, meaningful observation by political parties of the vote and the military’s public pledge to serve the winner regardless of party.

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