Rhetoric will not curb violence

HARARE - With  general elections scheduled  to take place  next year, rhetoric  through which politicians hope to convince the public  that they abhor the barbaric violence that has come to characterise  Zimbabwean polls, is guaranteed to reach fever pitch.

President Mugabe enclosed this messageat the burial of  Higher and Tertiary Education minister Stan Mudenge at the National Heroes Acre  a week ago.  On that solemn occasion, the Head of State urged Zimbabweans to recognise that they share a common nationality and humanity regardless of political affiliation or standing in society.

“We may have differences  but we are the same people. Allow others  to have their own preferences. Let us recognise these virtues which make us  more united than divided,” the  state daily, The Herald quoted him as saying. Most importantly, he touched on an issue that must be on the minds of most Zimbabweans at present when he added: “Let the people vote the way they want to vote.”

An alien who has just landed on Planet Earth from Mars would be highly impressed indeed with the expounding of these ideals.

Unfortunately, Zimbabweans who have lived through past blood-soaked elections and have memories of these traumatic experiences are unlikely to be easily convinced that things will be different any time soon.  

Elections can still be a matter of life or death.

A day before the President extolled these high ideals at Heroes Acre, his main partner in the government of national unity, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was quoted in the press painting a  different picture likely to jibe with the perceptions of a significant segment of the electorate.

Speaking after touring the homes  in Zaka of victims of politically-motivated violence  in the run-up to the 2008 general elections, he accused the President of hypocrisy, saying the Head of State preached peace in public while he and his party, Zanu PF practiced something totally different.

“We have politicians who pretend to shed crocodile tears. Mugabe stands with me  and my bloodless hands  saying we don’t want violence. That’s  hypocrisy because he knows the people who are committing violence are Zanu PF”, the  privately-owned daily newspaper, Newsday, quoted him as saying.

Frighteningly, the MDC leader said he was aware of plans that were already being put in place for violence and intimidation of the electorate during the forthcoming polls.

In a related development, the privately-owned weekly, The Standard, reported in last Sunday’s issue that the two MDC formations have vowed to resist President Mugabe’s calls for elections before the implementation of reforms  spelt out in the Global Political Agreement.

Added to this is the fact that  voters, who are supposed to benefit most from exercising their constitutional right to elect leaders of their choice in free and fair elections, regard these polls with dread and would rather they were not held.

Different polls have exposed this  fear of elections, including a recent snap survey by a daily newspaper in which respondents  said there was no point in staging polls in which the only outcome would be the loss of lives while nothing else would change.

The foregoing suggests that the time for  speaking in generalities and advancing political platitudes is long gone and it is now necessary to replace rhetoric with concrete action.

President Mugabe would be much more convincing and credible if he addressed specific issues that have prevented  Zimbabweans from voting freely and safely in past elections.

These impediments are already realities on the ground and rhetoric that skirts around them serves no purpose.

There needs to be a difference in the approach adopted to warn of pitfalls to be avoided and one designed to help the nation out of the political quagmire into which it has been driven.  

The President knows as much as anyone that the most unfortunate impact of elections held over the last decade or so has been to highlight the cheapness of human life by normalising, edifying and rewarding the barbaric killings of political opponents.

There are thousands of misguided young people and adults out there who have committed cruel, inhuman acts against fellow Zimbabweans in a bid to prevent them from voting as they wished.

Voting for any political party other than the President’s Zanu PF has led to the de-humanisation, maiming, intimidation, displacement and killing of voters who were cast as the party’s enemies.

Shamefully, the perpetrators of these heinous atrocities are regarded as heroes and patriots by their masters and sponsors.

This is an issue the President needs to address directly in his anti-violence and pro-peace speeches.

Zimbabweans have a right  to expect to hear from him as the President of the whole nation and not just his supporters, what is to be done about violent militias and gangs that are on the prowl in the countryside  in the build-up to elections, harassing and intimidating the electorate as well as declaring certain parts of the country“ no-go” zones for all other parties except Zanu PF.

No humane conduct can be expected from such groups in the next polls.

Even now,  vigilante groups such as the notorious Zanu PF-linked Chipangano are  allowed to be a law unto themselves and can kidnap, terrorise and attack suspected opponents of the President’s party with impunity.

 Zimbabweans might be more inclined to take seriously the President’s views on  tolerance and political diversity if he spoke directly about the role of these groups and that of  security agents. In the past, complaints have been voiced about the deployment of soldiers to certain areas of the country before and after elections.

Last ,but not least, Zimbabweans would be encouraged to hear the President specifically addressing the issue of the political partisanship of the police force and its selective interpretation and enforcement of laws.

Zimbabweans need to feel safe and secure at all times and this cannot be achieved unless the police are on board to serve the nation as a whole. - Mary Revesai

    Post a comment

    Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
    Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
    - Editor

    Your email address will not be shared.