RECENT upbeat reports about political violence being absent from the current campaign season are a fallacy.
Political violence of a physical nature is down but a
strong undercurrent of fear and uncertainty deriving from previous election-related violence prevails. Haunting memories of personal victimisation abound. Violence is so rooted in Zimbabwe’s political culture that it defies singular definition.
Let me give a few examples of manifestations of our violent political culture.
Often the leader of a country sets the mood that dominates the political and electoral processes. It’s no secret that President Mugabe is constantly in a combative mood these days. He even took the unusual step of wearing a bandana while launching Zanu PF’s manifesto.
He and his family donned the bandana — war-ready way — during his 81st birthday.
I’ve no problem with President Mugabe taking the presidency to a whole new level but the way he’s altering his physical appearance is just too intimidating to the faint-hearted like myself.
On the ground, party activists are constantly pulling down or defacing rivals’ campaign posters.
Even from the “safety” of our homes, we are still fully aware of what the Youth and Women’s Leagues have done in the past and are capable of doing. Police reportedly act in a “high-handed” way against violence from both parties.
The “Green Bombers”, while relatively idle this time around, can spring into action and inflict excessive violence at the click of two fingers.
The military is in a permanent state of readiness against both internal and external threats.
In the US, for example, it’s not uncommon for members of the Democratic Party to vote Republican and vice-versa. This is impossible in Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe’s threat against his former Information minister Jonathan Moyo is a threat against dissent in Zanu PF; it is a threat against Zanu PF members and supporters who might have second thoughts.
The Tsholotsho clique was ruthlessly purged. Then there was the infamous attempt on the political life of MDC legislator Job Sikhala in Zengeza.
Both main parties promised to severely “deal” with candidates who lost the party primaries. For their part, these candidates refused to accept the results and threatened to decampaign their parties. The list is endless.
The point is: violence of any kind induces the same undesirable outcome — public fear — which manifests itself mostly as voter apathy and uncertainty.
Aware of the absence of personal safety guarantees, the public refrains from most, if not all, political processes.
While we celebrate the absence of injuries and deaths this election season, we should not bask in false illusions of peace and security.
After the last vote has been counted, President Mugabe, the government and its wings, political parties and the general public should rethink on political violence.
I used to be sceptical about Western society’s addiction to therapy and counselling but I’ll be the first to suggest that we consider ourselves ripe for these remedial processes in the future.