A recent study by Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) on SADC democratic processes has revealed that 77 per cent of Zimbabweans live in fear and were very careful of what they said in public about their rulers.
The study disclosed that Zimbabweans were most fearful of politically motivated violence as compared to citizens of four other countries namely South Africa, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana.
According to the research, 72 per cent of Zambians are very careful about what they say in public, with 63 per cent South Africans, 49 per cent Namibians and 49 per cent of Batswana feeling the same way about their governments. The report says:
None of the five countries reflects the idea that free speech and publicly expressed opinions are valued in the politics of these countries.
Rather the findings suggest that people self-censor a good deal, and this makes politics a risky business.
When it comes to speaking about the political party they vote for, the study revealed that 65 per cent of Zimbabweans are very careful, while 68 per cent were very cognisant of organisations they join as compared to 46 per cent in Botswana, 44 per cent in Namibia with South Africa and Zambia coming in a close 64 per cent and 66 per cent respectively.
Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has arguably been holding the most violent elections in the region, with the ruling ZANU PF party accused of unleashing the police, army and war veterans on opposition party activists. The report adds:
In Zimbabwe there are endless anecdotes about devices to see for whom one votes, but, more seriously, there have been reprisals for voting against the ruling party.
The trend here to citizens being very careful in public and about their affiliations is widespread across the region.
Zimbabweans are the most careful about what they say, who they vote for, and most fearful about political violence, Zimbabwe ranks highest in all forms, followed by closely by Zambia and South Africa.
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