ZANU PF is not going to use overt violence at the next election but will embark on a sophisticated and multi-pronged approach to cloak its terror tactics, a report by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition says.
Desperate to win the endorsement of Sadc and the African Union (AU), the report says Zimbabwe will not witness violence up to the scale of the 2008 Presidential run-off.
"While I agree that state sponsored violence is endemic in Zimbabwe, I argue that Zanu PF is embarking on a more sophisticated and multi-pronged approach to cover its terror tactics in order to regain political legitimacy," an excerpt of the report, to be released on Wednesday, reads.
In the past Zanu PF has been accused of employing violent tactics to win elections, but the latest study indicates that there could be a change of tactics from the party.
The study, entitled "Pre-Election Detectors: ZANU PF's attempt to re-claim political hegemony" argues that the next election will not see as much violence as that of June 2008, as Zanu PF does not want to alienate Sadc and the AU, whom it depends on for legitimacy.
"Zanu PF is aware that naked physical violence will not be accepted in Sadc and yet at the same time a relatively free and fair election might undermine its electoral chances," the report continues.
"Pitted between a rock and a hard place, what strategies can Zanu PF use in the next harmonised election?"
Most of Zimbabwe's elections since independence have been marked by violence, particularly the 1985 general election and 2008 presidential run-off.
But the latest report says Zanu PF will likely move away from a violent election and adopt a psychological strategy, where the ghost of past violence would be reawakened thereby intimidating voters, without necessarily resorting to aggression.
"The party prefers a psychological warfare premised on manipulating the fear inculcated in communities over years among other strategies," the report says. "These include partisan registration of voters, ideologically appealing to popular groups, state financed patronage, control of state media and targeted persecution — devoid of physical harm — against civil society leaders and opposition supporters."
Despite incidents of violence, Zanu PF has been at the forefront of an unlikely campaign for peace in the next poll.
Youth militia and security forces are often accused of instigating political violence to intimidate the electorate into voting the party into power.
The study carried out by Phillani Zamchiya from Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Innocent Kasiyano from the Election Resource Centre and Admire Mutize from the Zimbabwe Peace Project, says only time will tell whether these strategies will work.
Crisis Coalition director, McDonald Lewanika said the report seeks to trace the methods that Zanu PF used for elections, while also suggesting evidence based interventions.
"The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has over the course of the last decade, carried out a tradition of releasing pre-election reports, to aid the political understanding in the country ahead of key electoral processes," he said, adding that it was the first in a series of four reports.
"The report is both a useful resource from an information perspective but also a warning and suggestion on how to deal with some challenges that are imminent with regards to political culture and the conduct of electoral business in our country.
"We believe that there is no better time than the present to make this input and hope that we can pre-empt some of the evil machinations that can impede a transition to democracy, while encouraging Zimbabweans and those with a stake in our elections from the region to take action while there is still time."