POLITICAL events in Zimbabwe now seem to have been moving at breakneck speed since the suspected murder of MDC-T Headlands deputy organising secretary and parliamentary aspirant Shepherd Maisiri’s 12 year-old son Christpowers, allegedly in an arson attack by Zanu PF activists.
Report By Herbert Moyo
There has been national outrage and condemnation, accompanying the national outpouring of grief over the incident, with MDC-T leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai even threatening to boycott the next crucial general elections slated for July if political repression and violence persist.
Cyberspace activists put up black squares as their profile pictures on social media networks, mainly Facebook, as a symbolic gesture against the brutality.
The police, yet to solve many other politically-inspired murders and disappearances of mainly MDC activists at the hands of Zanu PF suspects, swiftly “investigated” the matter and quickly ruled out any foul play in Christpowers’ death, despite promising the probe was still continuing.
As the MDC-T and Zanu PF trade accusations and counter-accusations over the suspected murder of the teenage boy, questions are being raised as to whether events are shaping up for a throwback to the 2008 environment after the death of Christpowers?
What difference will the new draft constitution which the unity government trio – Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC – have single-mindedly pursued since 2009 at a staggering US$50 million cost?
Will a new constitution alone without the raft of reforms envisaged in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the Sadc roadmap to elections create an environment for credible, free and fair elections?
Barely one week after the murder which has escalated political tensions to explosive intensities, the three main political parties are now increasingly on a collision course, although they have refocused their attention and energies on ensuring their key priority, the new draft constitution, is adopted.
Tsvangirai launched his “Yes” vote campaign at Gweru’s Mkoba stadium on Saturday on a rain-drenched afternoon.
However, as some political commentators have pointed out, Zimbabwe needs more than just a new constitution. Analysts say while it was a tragedy, government leaders and their parties must take Christpowers’ death as an opportunity to revisit the GPA and Sadc election roadmap to implement all the fundamental reforms necessary to create conditions for credible elections.
The new constitution, analysts say, is but one of the key reforms outlined in the Sadc election roadmap which should to be dealt with before elections; it is by no means the be all and end all to Zimbabwe’s political problems.
Some of the necessary reforms include media, electoral, and security sector reforms, as well as re-staffing of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and ensuring security refrain from political intereference.
A map of political violence in Zimbabwe
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Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisayi Ruhanya says Zimbabweans have been short-changed by politicians who for the past four years have touted a new constitution as the ultimate solution to the country’s political imbroglio when it is evidently not.
“The Zimbabwean crisis has never been a constitutional one,” said Ruhanya. “It is governance failure premised on Zanu PF’s refusal to uphold the constitution, rule of law, respect human rights and a political leadership that survives on impunity.
The most urgent requirements are broad reforms of the arms of the state such as the security, judiciary and the personnel that administer those institutions,” Ruhanya said.
Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and senior police officers have been campaigning for Zanu PF, with Chihuri urging officers and their families to register and vote for Zanu PF.
Last week deputy Commissioner-General Innocent Matibiri appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Defence and Home Affairs where he confirmed police would continue monitoring non-governmental organisations which they have recently raided repeatedly.
Analysts say equally complicit is the state media which has always rushed to absolve Zanu PF in cases like the Christpowers one where they have gone as far as suggesting his mental and physical disabilities prevented him from escaping the fire incident.
Political analyst Blessing Vava said the MDC parties had abandoned the reform agenda, saying they had been “mere passengers on the Government of National Unity gravy train, so complacent in their pre-occupation with acquiring assets while failing to push for these so-called reforms”.
Through its steadfast insistence on a full complement of reforms, Sadc has now assumed the role of the fabled mourner weeping louder than the bereaved as the MDC parties now seem to be collaborating with Zanu PF to eschew reforms by always reacting to their rival’s agenda-setting.
Analyst Godwin Phiri said the MDC parties have failed to maintain pressure on Zanu PF to adopt reforms before elections.
“The MDC parties should have kept their eyes on the ball and insisted on reforms before elections, but Tsvangirai has made worrisome statements expressing confidence that elections would be violence-free,” said Phiri said.
Analysts say the MDC formation seems to think a new constitution alone will address their concerns. Those who support the new draft constitution point to favourable aspects in the document like an enlarged bill of rights, presidential term limits as well as new democratic institutions.
Listen to analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya giving his views:
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) was established in line with Section 242 of the draft and its functions, among other things, are “to protect the public against abuse of power and maladministration by state and public institutions and by officers of those institutions”.
Despite provisions allowing it to investigate any authority or person for human rights violations and to “secure appropriate redress, including recommending the prosecution of offenders where human rights or freedoms have been violated,” the organisation – led by Zanu PF politburo member Jacob Mudenda – is not yet function due to lack of resources and logistics.
Besides, the choice of Mudenda as its leader has created a credibility crisis for the organisation before it started working.
While Christpowers joins the long list of victims whose bodies have littered Zimbabwe’s political terrain in the run up to elections, politicians’ relentless push towards polls without reforms throwback Zimbabwe to the 2008 situation, ensuring the country remains trapped in cycle of violence and disputed election outcomes as well as the attendant political stalemate.