Harare — THE first elections to be held without longtime leader, Robert Mugabe, presents Zimbabwe an opportunity to rid itself of the culture of serious human rights violations.
This is according to human rights groups as the country with a history of mass killing s, torture and kidnappings of ruling party opponents heads for general polls on July 30.
Amnesty International stated the poll offered Zimbabwe an opportunity to bury memories of the killing of an estimated 20 000 civilians killed in anti-dissident operations in the early 1980s as well as more than 200 opposition supporters when strongman Mugabe first defeat by the opposition in 2008.
In other grave violations, scores of opposition and human rights activists have disappeared without trace.
Over 700 000 people were also left homeless during a so-called cleanup exercise in opposition strongholds in 2005.
Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Southern Africa, said as the first post-Mugabe elections were time for Zimbabwe to break with decades of gross human rights violations.
"Under Mugabe's rule, the election period was typically marred by killings, disappearances and arrests," Mwananyanda said.
A military coup last November forced Mugabe to resign after 37 years in power.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, ironically alleged to be one of the masterminds of the 1980s mass killings, has succeeded the veteran leader and has ushered reforms expected to ensure a credible poll.
Mwananyanda said Zimbabwe could fulfil its potential if all politicians publicly committed to addressing human rights violations.
"Anything short of this will only shortchange the country of its full potential."