Political violence on the rise

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HARARE – As the country hurtles towards the crunch 2018 harmonised elections, there are fears that the polls would be marred by political violence.

This comes as there are renewed fears that the debilitating violence that rocked the country when the ruling party lost the 2008 elections could flare up again.

With the scourge of violence already rearing its ugly head, political analysts canvassed by the Daily News on Sunday said indications on the ground point to a poisoned atmosphere.

Afghanistan-based analyst Maxwell Saungweme said if recent Zimbabwe Peace Project reports that have implicated the ruling Zanu PF party as the chief perpetrator of violence in the majority of cases are anything to go by, “then there will certainly be blood on the floor” come election time.

“You can’t rule out violence, pugnacity and pandemonium in these elections given our notoriety for violence because already, violence has started if you follow Zimbabwe Peace Project reports — so things are likely to get worse as we approach elections,” Saungweme said.

The opposition MDC has since condemned the surge of violence in Harare which saw its car and properties belonging to its senior officials being torched in suspected cases of arson by people believed to be from Zanu PF.

On Wednesday, the MDC demanded in Parliament that action be taken on the incidents which they described as acts of thuggery.

“I would want the house to request the leader of the House today to issue a statement in relation to the rising political violence which the country has witnessed over the past two weeks,” Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole said in the National Assembly.

Political analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said at this rate, there was limited or no chance that next year’s elections would be violence-free.

“We are likely to see a violence-free election, the conditions for free and fair elections are not there. The institutions that are supposed to promote violence-free elections are compromised and are not independent. They are controlled by Zanu PF, which largely benefits from violence.”

Last week, President Robert Mugabe and his party dissociated themselves from the terror gangs that have resurfaced in some of the country’s major towns and cities ahead of next year’s elections.

Mugabe told the youths to deal with these gangs, a comment which has triggered protests from the opposition and other peace-loving Zimbabweans.

Political analyst Shakespear Hamauswa said Zanu PF is used to solve political differences using violence. “It is very direct in that he is saying use violence to resolve problems.

“He was supposed to tell the police to arrest perpetrators. Telling them to beat those people shows that he knows violence is party of Zanu PF’ DNA system. He knows Zanu PF is capable of using violence, and it has worked for them.”

People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said: “Mugabe has always believed in violence. He has that in their DNA. They even want to treat the economy violently using command economics. The country is facing an implosion; the succession is being handled badly. And that is going to end in a violent process.”

Welshman Ncube-led MDC’s spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi, weighed in saying Mugabe’s sentiments will trigger violence.

“We are dealing with someone who is not sincere and known as the architect behind the terror activities. He is a serial flip-flopper whose statements have contributed to loss of life and permanent injuries.

“We have a leader who changes colour and behaviour like a chameleon. The statements uttered by Mugabe have the potential to trigger political violence ahead of 2018 elections. We are urging Robert Mugabe to desist from uttering inflammatory statements.”

Saungweme said Mugabe is known to speak and encourage violence. “You remember the ‘I have degrees in violence’ speech. If you know Mugabe’s rule, you would understand it’s punctuated by divide-and-rule, deceit, diversionary tactics and violence.

“Violence is usually used by him and his supporters to create a sense of terror and fear. The youth service he created was part of his architecture of violence.”

The spectre of violence ahead of next year’s plebiscite has also been made ominous following recent calls by Mugabe for the reintroduction of the National Youth Service programme.

In February while addressing guests at his 93rd birthday celebrations in Matobo, Matabeleland South Province, Mugabe said the training programme, which was established in 2001, was necessary to instil national pride and discipline among the nation’s youth.

Known as the “Green Bombers”, the graduates were accused of human rights abuses and brutal crackdowns against opposition activists and supporters, particularly in the run-up to the 2008 elections.

In 2008, at least 300 MDC supporters are estimated to have been murdered in cold blood after Mugabe suffered a stunning loss to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in that year’s presidential ballot — which the nonagenarian has since openly acknowledged on a number of occasions that he lost hands-down.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is worried by reports of escalation of politically-motivated violence incidents, in particular arsons, that are reminiscent of the June 2008.

“These gory incidents, the latest being the arson attack on Tendai Nyachuru, a kraal head in Mazoe, come at a time when the election season is encroaching upon us and instead of Zimbabweans looking forward to choosing national leaders of their choice freely, they are dreading the whole process.

“ZCTU is concerned that in some sections of government, it is business as usual with national leaders seemingly paying lip service in calling for cessation to violence. Prospects of a free and fair harmonised election are fast fading given the insincerity of political leadership in dealing with violence.

“ZCTU believes the re-emergence of politically-motivated violence could have been stemmed if the country had gone through a process of sincere truth finding, justice, reconciliation and reparations for violent incidents of the past.

“The lack of security, State institutions and media reforms has also not helped the matter because we continue to see traces of institutionalised violence and hate speech.

“The international community cannot guarantee a free and fair poll in Zimbabwe hence the onus is on us as Zimbabweans to fight for what we believe in despite the adversity.

“The ZCTU fears a situation where communities will be forced to retaliate as this will spell more doom for the country.

“The ZCTU demands that police stop dithering on arresting perpetrators of political violence without fear or favour. Zimbabweans need to go to the polls under a peaceful environment.

“We also demand that political leadership in Zimbabwe place the interest of the masses above narrow political interests.

“They should commit themselves to consolidating, defending and maintaining democracy, peace, security and stability and this should go beyond grandstanding in the media.

“We also call upon the early deployment of elections observers from Southern African Development Community and International community to monitor the environment right from the voter registration process until after the announcement of results,” said ZCTU. – Daily News