27 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Political Lunacy - Zim Not Ready for Elections?


THE death of Christpowers Maisiri (12) at the beginning of this week epitomises the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe. Christpowers Maisiri was the son of Shepherd Maisiri, a well-known MDC-T activist and district deputy organising secretary in the Headlands area of Manicaland.

Christpowers died in a fire set up by suspected ZANU-PF supporters in their long battle to try and dislodge his father from the growing political influence he has been having in the Hea-dlands area. Mais-iri has been subjected to a long-drawn battle with ZANU-PF heavy-weights in the area including having been abducted and his wife abused. In one of the most daring acts by ZANU-PF supporters in the area, Maisiri was once abducted and thrown into a dam, with the intention of drowning him to death. He was saved by some fisherman before he could choke to death. This is a man who has been subjected to such victimisation for his political beliefs and his activities in the MDC-T. Now he has lost his son to political thuggery and inhuman discharge of political zealousness.

President Robert Mugabe has been out preaching the need for a peaceful election in 2013. His words have just been drowned by the actions of his followers, who seem to have lost the sense of normal political competition and the preservation of human dignity. President Mugabe will have to swallow his words given the glaring irony of what is developing across country. Just the other day deputy police commissioner Innocent Matibiri was appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Security and Defence. He indicated that the police had set up a special committee to look into preserving peace and stability towards and during the supposed elections. He also blamed non-governmental organisations and civil society for being "regime change agents" bent on influencing the political tide against ZANU-PF.

How on earth do we reconcile the policeman's statements? If the police are really serious about preserving peace then we must see action and justice in the death of Maisiri's son. We must see the police moving away from being so obsessed by political ranting to being a state institution that discharges its duties with fairness.

To imagine that it took the police seven hours to arrive at Maisiri's homestead to attend to the crime scene is deplorable. This does not support deputy commissioner Matibiri's claim of the force's urgency in stamping out political violence. The death of Maisiri's son must be a defining moment for the political trajectory towards elections. This must communicate to all and sundry that the nation is not ready for an election or a referendum for that matter. State institutions have no willingness to ensure a sober political environment in which political competition can be held while still upholding the value of humanity.

For the MDC-T, they must take Maisiri's son's death seriously. I know there is obsession for elections and the referendum even within the party.

However, at what cost must the party sacrifice its members for the sake of wanting to push through what seems risky? When Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the 2008 presidential election re-run, I believe the decision was premised on the dangers that his supporters were exposed to. The death of Maisiri's son must get Tsvangirai and his team thinking. They must realise that it's not about waiting for 200 deaths to occur before an election becomes perilous. That one single life lost is as important as losing many more. Tsvangirai and the MDC-T must become more defiant than they have ever been. They are in government, they are in Cabinet and they are in Parliament. Unlike in 2000 and in 2008, this time around they are in the echelons of power. They must use their presence in these governance structures to make a stance. They must not assume that it is one death and therefore continue with making mere statements and then continue with political life as if all is normal. Losing a son is devastating, especially in clear circumstances of political victimisation, against a background of unperturbed commitment to party activities and mobilisation. The MDC-T must share in the grief of the Maisiri family by ensuring that justice is done.

If the MDC-T fails to act decisively on this incident, and many others that are unfolding across the country, this will likely cause a lot of demoralisation of the party's grassroots structures. Already there are some in the MDC-T grassroots structures who feel that their leaders are too absorbed in their government and parliamentary roles that they are willing to sacrifice their ordinary supporters. Some feel their leaders are now very removed from the "on-the-ground" situation faced by their supporters, especially in the face of ZANU-PF repression and state institutions' polarisation. If the MDC-T leadership fails to act in a manner that shows their genuine concern about such criminal actions against their supporters and their families, then the supporters will assume they are sacrificial lambs in a game where others seek self-centred political ambitions.

For ZANU-PF, it is well known that there are very senior party leaders who had personally threatened Maisiri with extinction. These are political monsters who linger in the top structures of the party, making President Mugabe's calls for peace a mere talk show subtracted from the reality of their political desperation. If President Mugabe is really serious about what he has been preaching for some time now, then he needs to halt the ZANU-PF violence machinery that has once again become mobilised in the last couple of months. We are aware that the 2008 political violence was not sporadic. It was driven through organised structures and it moved mechanically across districts and across provinces being directed from a centralised point. We know that the structures have not been dismantled since 2008 and they can be re-activated, in fact they seem re-activated already. We see the crackdown on civil society and now we see a clear targeting of MDC-T supporters.

How on earth does anyone in their right thinking mind assume we will have a "free and fair" election? The signs are on and the lights are off, we are sliding back to the 2008 political violence scenario. This environment is not conducive for elections. The GPA period has failed to reform institutions and some politicians' way of thinking. We will likely see more lives lost, more property destroyed and much more victimisation taking place as we go further into the year. Zimbabwe is just not ready for elections. The death of Maisiri's son is the dawning of another phase of political lunacy.

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