Zimbabwe: Police Hold Key to Peaceful Polls

President Robert Mugabe struck the right note on Thursday when he instructed police to arrest perpetrators of political violence.

He also tasked Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri to fully brief him over their progress in rooting out violent elements in the society.

Mugabe's key remarks were made in a speech at the 33rd anniversary for Independence held at the National Sports stadium. They appeared to be well-timed to calm the nerves as Zimbabwe prepares for harmonised elections, whose date is yet to be decided.

The veteran politician, who has boasted of having degrees in violence in the past, earned plaudits when he denounced violence noting that he and his erstwhile enemy Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had ironed out their differences.

He called on their supporters to do the same in order for Zimbabwe to hold violence free elections.

While Mugabe's instruction for the police to deal with political thugs was loud and clear, it remains to be seen if it will be heeded by the partisan officers who are openly biased in favour of Zanu PF.

Under Chihuri, an avowed Zanu PF supporter, police have allowed terror groups linked with the party to terrorise MDC supporters.

Some of these groups, like the Mbare- based Chipangano, have operated with impunity, restricting people's right to freedom of assembly.

Police have also not acted on thousands of reported cases of political violence over the years. Prominent among the suspects is Joseph Mwale, a CIO operative who stands accused of petrol-bombing MDC activists Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya 13 years ago.

Despite fervent calls for justice, police have not bothered to bring Mwale to account and he has been roaming around the country as a free man.

As we head towards elections, Zimbabweans will be keen to see if police can positively respond to Mugabe's call for peace. Police also need to abandon a campaign of harassing civil society organisations, especially those which monitor the political environment in the country.

They should instead partner the CSOs to ensure that peace prevails in the country.

Quote of the week

We are all Zimbabweans although we differ in ideologies. As we go for elections, go and vote your own way, no one should be forced to vote for anyone. The people will make their choices; they are now educated and clever to decide who they want," President Robert Mugabe urging Zimbabweans to vote peacefully.

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