Is this the Zimbabwe we want?

HARARE - When former president Robert Mugabe resigned from power last year — after running the country he inherited in a sound economic state from the Rhodesians into the ground — Zimbabweans from all walks of life celebrated that significant development.

It was a window of opportunity for the long-suffering masses to bring closure to the past and chart a new way forward to resurrect hopes that had been ebbing away as a result of Mugabe’s often tumultuous rule.

Until Mugabe’s resignation, we had became a divided lot that used violence and hate speech in response to divergent views, as we held narcissistic views which, often times, were out of sync with what was happening around us.

This is why the world was touched and moved by the rare show of unity exhibited by citizens who were brought together by the desire to act with finality on Mugabe’s reign.

Against this background, the just-concluded elections were seen as an opportunity not to be missed in Zimbabwe’s quest to right past wrongs which included violence and deep-resentment of certain tribes as a result of deaths of thousands of civilians slain during the Gukurahundi period.

Sadly, what had passed off as peaceful and historic elections was sullied by bloody demonstrations which ended with seven people dying and dozens crocked.

At the heart of this rather tragic development was the decision by the MDC Alliance leadership to sanction a demonstration questioning the credibility of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) announcing results it would accept.

The MDC Alliance had held two successful and hugely attended demonstrations against Zec in June without sparking violence.

Crucially, the largest opposition bloc notified police on both occasions and the law enforcement agency cleared them.

It is very unfortunate that the MDC Alliance has refused to accept part of the blame for the mayhem which occurred in Harare on Wednesday after their demonstration turned violent, well before the unwarranted intervention of the army.

There was no need to try and blame government without owning part of the culpability in the orgy which has only served to reverse most of the gains the country had made since Mugabe’s ouster.

Before Wednesday’s demonstration, almost everyone including the international missions observing the national harmonised polls, had noted how they had started off well and ended relatively peacefully, or at least we thought.

If we could really show remarkable unity and maturity in such a huge and momentous process why couldn’t the MDC Alliance see the dangers of prematurely celebrating unannounced results and sanction a demonstration?

Whether they had genuine grievances or not, whatever the verdict, it was grossly unfair and irresponsible for the MDC Alliance to tar the outcome of the elections.

On the other hand, government rushed to deploy the military to deal with a situation that had appeared to be under control as riot police had been making progress in breaking the crowd trouble.

It leaves a sour taste in the mouth that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory has been overshadowed by something that government could easily have avoided — that’s leaving the police to deal with its constitutional mandate of civilian policing.

From the television footage, it appeared not everyone among the soldiers, had really gotten hang of how they were supposed to quell the violence.

This was evidenced by contrasting images showing the majority of soldiers firing into the air and one aiming at the protesters until the line commander rebuked him. It remains a very bad incident which took off the gloss from Mnangagwa’s sterling efforts to chart a path different from Mugabe and indeed sore to ordinary people who were beginning to believe that Zimbabwe is breaking with the past.

Upon reflection, Wednesday’s events serve to underline how every Zimbabwean needs to do more in helping the nation finally dump the unwanted tag of violence.

It is not Mnangagwa’s challenge alone, but all of us to truly show the world that violence is no longer part of our DNA.

Elections should be fun where those chomping at the bit with regards to prospects of winning should also find comfort in accepting defeat.

Wednesday’s mindless bloodletting and the subsequent deaths of innocent people are compelling reasons to challenge all of us to decide which route we want to take.

Do we want to break with the past or continue with Mugabe’s ills?

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