Emmerson Mnangagwa. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Emmerson Mnangagwa. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Harare — Zimbabwe’s political parties signed a peace pledge on Tuesday in the capital city of Harare, ahead of elections in July.

The peace pledge is a code of conduct that commits presidential candidates and their different parties to campaign peacefully, and also encourages tolerance among the different political parties.

The upcoming election will be held on July 30 and has a lineup of 23 presidential hopefuls contesting for power. Included in the race is incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been in office for nearly seven months.

According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) there are 55 political parties taking part in the elections out of the 130 registered with the commission. The election has 247 independent candidates also contesting for various seats in council and parliament.

Some of the political parties represented at the ceremony held at the Rainbow Towers include the ruling Zanu-PF, the MDC Alliance, the MDC-T led by Thokozani Khupe, and the Coalition of Democrats led by Elton Mangoma.

Mangoma said he has been a victim of both political and state-sponsored violence and called for a truth commission to be established to deal with the atrocities of the past committed in the country. These included the 1980s Gukurahundi killings, and Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 in which thousands of civilians were victims of violence.

"We need national healing, if we are really to find peace today and in the future," Mangoma said in a speech before appending his signature to the peace pledge.

Douglas Mwonzora, the secretary-general of the MDC party led by Nelson Chamisa, said the peace pledge was a "great step" towards building trust in our national body polity. "For a long time, Zimbabwe has been enmeshed in the toxic politics of hate, intimidation, violence, fraud and subterfuge. This is the time to put these behind us."

Bomb blast

The signing of the peace pledge comes a few days after a bomb blast in Bulawayo, which left 50 people injured and two killed, according to the health minister David Parirenyatwa.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said it was "psychopathic thinking" to suggest the Zanu-PF had committed the act against itself. This was in response to social media speculation that the bombing was stage-managed by the ruling party.

Piers Pigou, the Southern Africa consultant and analyst at the International Crisis Group said the peace pledge among the political parties was "a window dressing gesture and symbolic at best", but in the wake of the bombing in Bulawayo was important.

Meanwhile, at the peace pledge ceremony, one of the political leaders, Francis Danha of the 1980 Freedom Movement, was dragged out of proceedings by police for disrupting the event. Danha was loudly making calls for Priscilla Chigumba, the ZEC chairwoman, which is mandated to run the elections, to step down.