By Nkosana Dlamini
A crowd of over 2000 residents from Harare’s Epworth suburb attended the national peace campaign headlined by a live musical performance by dancehall star, Winky D (pictured) who also took time to register to vote under the biometric voter registration (bvr) exercise.
The #13milvoices4peace campaign is being spearheaded by local NGOs, Election Resource Centre ERC), Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) and ZimRights.
The organisations are seeking to attract elusive youth participation using popular artists.
The Harare show is one in several similar countrywide campaigns being conducted by the mainstream NGOs ahead of the country’s harmonised elections later this year.
Speaking to The Zimbabwe Star on the sidelines of the Epworth event, Heal Zimbabwe Trust executive director Rashid Mahiya said the campaign was targeting youth participation in electoral processes.
“We are targeting young people to participate and participate in peaceful elections and other democratic processes,” he said.
“We are doing this in many provinces. Actually we have done it in 10 so far and we continue to do it. We will be in Bulawayo next week. We were in Zaka, Gokwe and will also be in Chipinge.
“It’s a national campaign that is going to go as far as elections and the post-election period.”
Representatives from collaborating organisations also took time to urge residents of the sprawling township to observe peace during the period leading to the polls.
Mahiya said the strategy to use popular musicians during their tours was working wonders as this allowed role models among popular artists to use their own forms to impart the message of peace among the youths who are often used by older politicians to visit violence among political rivals.
“Young people constitute about 60 percent of the national population and we find them also largely instrumentalised in terms of violence during elections and other political processes,” he said.
Before taking to the stage, Winky D was led into a bvr tent manned by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) staff at the venue to register.
The celebrated dancehall chanter was the main attraction among a cast of local musicians who entertained the crowd during the event.
Winky D punctuated a sublime performance with an encouragement to his fans to also register to vote as well as observe peace during the period.
The message of peace by the three collaborating NGOs dovetails with similar vows to deliver a violence free poll by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
ERC and other poll based groups have urged the country’s leader to follow his pledges through rolling out electoral reforms.
These include the alignment of the country’s electoral laws with the national constitution, taking a firmer stand against those implicated in cases of voter intimidation and to stop acts perceived to be giving Zanu PF an unfair electoral head start such as distributing cars sourced at the tax payer’s expense among traditional chiefs.