Dynamics of Politically Motivated Violence in Zimbabwe

By Collins Chirinda

28 March 2018 – Once again, violence is showing its ugly head and posing a tremendous threat to the democratic process in Zimbabwe in the forthcoming general election in the form of politically motivated inter and intra party violence.

Time and again I have often found myself disappointed and asking myself why Africa still battles political, racial and tribal intolerance which in most cases escalates to violent clashes.

Violence in its simplest form must not be tolerated, it is an impediment to socio-economic and political development and must be condemned without prejudicial inclinations towards perpetrators.

I have discovered that racial, tribal, territorial and gender based intolerance in Zimbabwe has been fuelled by politics, economics, neo colonial western influence, partisanship (leadership) and the media.

Leadership in Africa has become more of a religion, most leaders have become more of cult demi-gods and superhuman and as noted by Achilli Mbembe in On the Post Colony and whatever they say is expediently executed by their subordinates and followers even if it has grave implications without hesitation or inquisition.

Bekezela Gumbo a political scientist noted that the issue of perennial conflict and violent intra and inter party violence is credited to politicisation of ethnicity.

“The problem is that of personality cult leadership whereby people in parties will actually plant and cultivate that leadership based on personality cults and you know that if there is no spirit or history of ethnic tolerance towards other tribal diversities it will actually aid violence” said Gumbo.

In most cases in Africa, violence is used to silence political opponents as in the case of the 2008 presidential run-off in Zimbabwe were people mainly in rural areas were massacred and beaten into submission allegedly at the hands of the army and the Zanu PF militia.

Gumbo also added that the absence of a culture of tolerance also fanned political violence.

“Politicisation of ethnicity, personality cult and absence of culture of tolerance, these three are responsible for violence in Zimbabwe.” he said.

Recent manifestations of this phenomenon are the attacks on Dr Thokozani Khupe and Douglas Mwonzora’s person at the funeral of the late Ex-Premiere, Morgan Tsvangirai’s burial in Buhera in February this year.

In an online article written by Dewa Mavinga and published on the Human Rights Watch website in July 2017, the ruling Zanu Pf supporters are reported to have allegedly burned down a bar belonging to opposition deputy president Elias Mudzuri but Zanu PF is reported to have dismissed these allegations as false but evidently in both cases highlighted above we can see that inter and intra party violence is prevalent in Zimbabwe.

In most cases, state apparatuses are manipulated by those in power to front their needs as in the case of the Rwanda genocide of 1994 where an estimated 1 million Tutsis were massacred and a mass exodus was witnessed, the constitution and rue of aw are partially applied that is if and when they are applied at all.

At the centre of it all this the media, particularly state media, which are controlled by those in power to demonise and vilify political opponents.

The private media make an attempt to play their role as the fourth estate and as a watchdog but are stifled by restrictive laws in many countries even those outside Africa like Hong Kong and the Islamic nations were journalists have been unconstitutionally detained and in some extreme cases executed.

Journalists are victimised usually when they report on issues to do with political violence and citizens are afraid to speak out against political figures owing to fear of victimisation in Zimbabwe.

John Cassim an established journalist in Harare is of the view that journalists are affected by a spiral of silence because of the political situation and violence in the country.

“To a larger extent violence has affected the activities of journalist in Zimbabwe such that there is so much fear amongst journalist especially the young ones who are coming from the colleges now and have no experience on how to combat such situations.” said Cassim.

Cassim also reiterated that authorities were failing to cushion the media from attacks when violence erupted.

“Governments, especially in Zimbabwe, Africa and SADC are failing to protect journalists, they are failing to distinguish enemies and journalist.” added Cassim.

The long term solution to the issue of violence is inculcating a culture of tolerance whether religious, tribal, and racial and gender based intolerance.

Democracy in Africa should become one of the foundations that modern governments are founded on and not leadership by appointment.

With regards to the upcoming harmonised elections, people are entitled to choose who should lead them without being coerced into selecting leaders, the media should practise freely without fear or favour and should not be limited by repressive legislation or intimidated by power hungry individuals but should rather be protected by the governments and the international community in an enabling environment.

Western powers should not interfere in local politics because women, children and the elderly are the most affected when their neo-colonialist plans are bungled in the ensuing crises.

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