Zimbabwe: Violence Still a Threat

Photo: Amnesty International
File photo: Zimbabwean victim of violence in previous elections.

LAST week, Botswana President Ian Khama said something every Zimbabwean has dreaded: The return to the 2008 electoral violence.

"All I can say right now is that I hope there will be a credible election ... The reason I say 'hope' is because all the people who were involved in the brutality and intimidation that took place back then are still there today," Khama told a South African newspaper.

"I have not seen any evidence that they have changed their attitude towards trying to ensure that ZANU-PF will emerge victorious."

Analysts this week equated Botswana to a model of peace, stability and prosperity in the region, suggesting that when its leadership speaks, their logic should be taken into consideration.

With Zimbabwe expected to go for polls later this year, probably in July to end the inclusive government consummated in February 2009, all eyes would be on the country to see whether its leadership would walk the talk.

Of late, the principals in the inclusive government, formed after political violence resulted in a sham presidential election run-off that was boycotted by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, have been preaching peace and zero-tolerance to politically-motivated violence.

But despite their calls for tolerance, there have been incidents of politically-motivated violence reported in some parts of the country.

While the Global Political Agreement signed by the three parties in the inclusive government to create the coalition government prescribes certain reforms in order to level the political playing field, there has been lethargy on the part of ZANU-PF towards fulfilling the pact.

In spite of the piecemeal reforms that the inclusive government initiated in a bid to usher in free and fair polls, the element of impunity continues, raising fears of a return to the dreaded 2008 polls.

Known assailants still roam the countryside. In Harare, Kwekwe and Chinhoyi, notorious gangs - Chipangano, al Shabab and the Top Six have walked away scot-free for past transgressions.

During his tenure as the country's premier, Tsvangirai has also failed to push for the arrest and prosecution of known individuals who fatally petrol bombed his aides Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika during the run-up to the 2000 polls.

These examples raise questions as to whether he is being led down the garden path by President Robert Mugabe who may be setting him up to lose.

On April 30, 2000, Elliot Pfebve, an MDC-T aspiring candidate for Bindura North, escaped death by a whisker when alleged ZANU-PF members attacked his family members resulting in the murder of his brother, Matthew in a case of mistaken identity.

The murder forced Pfebve into exile in the United Kingdom, but after skipping participation in the following successive election, the politician is eyeing the same seat in the forthcoming polls.

This week Pfebve told The Financial Gazette that he was skeptical that ZANU-PF would follow its anti-violence statements, adding that Khama must be taken seriously.

He said while ZANU-PF had always been good in saying one thing with its tongue and another with its hands, they hoped that while its hands would be dripping with blood its tongue would be clean.

"Let's look at the historical background and try to draw a realistic picture of (President) Mugabe's sincerity in his call for peaceful elections. The military, police and secrete service structures that spearheaded ZANU-PF's 2008 violent election campaign are still intact. If the truth is to be told, with diamonds from Chiadzwa they are more oiled now than ever before," said Pfebve.

"I think if the truth is to be told, we the opposition must get into this election with a Plan B, we have been duped by (President) Mugabe many times. While to err is human, repeating the same mistake over and over again expecting a different result is ignorance."

Recently, the country's major political parties signed a code of conduct on elections that would see their leaders being held accountable for their supporters' violent conduct.

But there is widespread skepticism that the leaders, specifically President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvan-girai would walk the talk especially considering that their joint peace rallies promised in 2011 to encourage political tolerance have remained a pipedream.

In a recent statement, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) said it was cautious about the latest moves by the country's major political parties.

It said it remains doubtful that the code would make any difference to stem political violence because it does not have legal teeth.

"According to ZPP reports, events such as the referendum and elections held in the past 12 years recorded the highest levels of unabated violence perpetrated by political party supporters against opposition and the citizens," the organisation said.

"Politicians in Zimbabwe have over the years been accused of preaching peace by day and perpetrating political violence by night. The ZPP has reported in its monthly reports, violations that were perpetrated by Members of Parliament and other senior politicians from the country's major political parties."

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