4 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Mugabe's Peace Call Falling On Deaf Ears

Photo: IRIN
President Robert Mugabe

ESCALATING reports of political violence by Zanu PF youth militia against supporters of the two MDC formations in the past few days fly in the face of President Robert Mugabe's attempts to preach peace, as the country heads for potentially volatile elections early next year, analysts have said.

They said the continuation of violence by Zanu PF youths after Mugabe denounced it, either meant that the 88-year-old leader is not sincere in his call or has lost control of rogue elements within the party.

Officially opening the Fifth Session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe last week, Mugabe called for peace, tolerance and an end to political violence.

"Let us all shun violence in all its manifestations and latent forms, especially as we look forward to our national elections," he said.

Two days after Mugabe's call for peace, Zanu PF Harare province -- which has links with the Mbare-based Chipangano militia -- embarked on an anti-violence crusade in the capital city to educate youths on the need for discipline and a peaceful campaign in the next elections.

Ironically, Zanu PF provincial youth chairperson Jim Kunaka accused of leading the violent militia group, is among those spearheading the anti-violent campaign.

But Zanu PF and Mugabe's critics said they would not be fooled by empty statements.

University of Zimbabwe political scientist Shakespeare Hamauswa said Zanu PF wanted to hoodwink Sadc, European Union and the United Nations into believing that it had reformed and was capable of holding peaceful elections.

He, however, said the fact that Mugabe's statements were not in tandem with his supporters' actions, cast doubt on the sincerity of the party's campaign for non-violence.

"You cannot say one thing and do directly the opposite and expect people to believe and trust you," said Hamauswa.

"They (Zanu PF) will do anything they can to advance their agenda of retaining power."

Another political analyst Charles Mangongera also dismissed Zanu PF's campaign for peaceful elections.

He said Zimbabweans would only be convinced that Mugabe is sincere when he starts calling for the prosecution of all those that killed and maimed innocent people during the violent 2008 elections.

The MDC-T has said at least 500 of its supporters were killed by Zanu PF and state security agents in 2008.

Zanu PF has denied the allegations.

"They are calling for peace now because they are desperate for legitimacy," said Mangongera.

But other analysts believe that the increased call for peace was a public relations exercise after Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa was roundly condemned for revealing that the military would not allow Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to rule even if he wins the next elections.

The security chiefs have on several occasions vowed not to salute the Prime Minister.

Mangongera said Zanu PF believed that a mere reminder of the violence of 2008 would make people vote for their party.

Zanu PF and Mugabe, said Mangongera, believed only subtle violence would work in their favour because it would not be very noticeable to the international community.

"They think they can reap dividends from the violence of 2008. If your house was burnt in 2008, what they only need is just to shake a match box for you to toe their line. This is what they are banking on," said Mangongera.

Violence likely to alter voting trends: magaisa

Another political analyst, Alex Magaisa, said the use of subtle forms of violence was designed to affect voters' electoral choices.

Magaisa noted that the recent Freedom House Survey (FHS) said that the fear factor rises each time the country nears an election.

In the FHS, 72% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that "each time Zimbabwe comes to important political decisions, violence and intimidation surface".

The survey also noted that 66% of respondents agreed that "fear of violence and intimidation, makes people vote for parties or candidates other than the ones they prefer".

"If it is true that people respond to fear by voting for the candidate that they would otherwise not vote for and the statements effectively threatening a coup if Tsvangirai wins, means that voters are more likely to be influenced to vote for another candidate not out of free will, but because of the fear of the violent consequences," said Magaisa.

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