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Editor’s Memo

Violence of the heart

By Vincent Kahiya

A MARTIN Luther King commandment says “refrain from violence of the fist, tongue and heart”.

Most people can stop themselves from hitting other

s out of fear of arrest and can bite their tongue to refrain from saying something mean, but violence of the heart is challenging. Following this rule is imperative because things we think about, sooner or later, are going to come out in our actions.

Violent conduct in an individual comes from the heart. It controls the fist and the tongue. No wonder fists are raised menacingly when rulers proclaim “degrees in violence” or when they implore supporters “to strike fear in the heart of the white man”. The next time they stand up to preach peace, tolerance and co-existence the violent heart will still be beating.

In political parties violence is rarely regarded as a virtue. It is quickly denied and condemned even when it is at the heart of a party’s activities. But as long as violence has an imprint in the heart of the party no amount of cover-up and denial can hide its ugly face. Sooner or later it will come out in actions such as physical assaults, verbal attacks and other subtle threats.

The assault on Harare North MP Trudy Stevenson this week by youths allegedly aligned to the Tsvangirai-led MDC provides useful insight into intra-party violence and useful lessons of what happens when violence of the heart is not dealt with expressly.

Tsvangirai’s camp has denied culpability in the assault on the feisty but small and frail woman. Stevenson’s camp has fingered Tsvangirai’s supporters for the violence.

Tsvangirai’s secretary-general Tendai Biti in a statement denounced the assault on Stevenson. He said his faction did not support violence and wished Trudy a speedy recovery.

Also this week, Linos Mushonga, who was also at the receiving end in the attack, was on the Voice of America denouncing the Tsvangirai faction for the violence that left him with two broken fingers.

Remember this Mutambara quote at the beginning of the year: “How do we talk about a regime which is criminal and violent when you yourself are carrying out violent acts and violating your own party rules? We won’t be qualified to fight Mugabe if we are little Mugabes.”

This of course has been denied. It would be stretching honesty to breaking point for any party to confess violence and own up. It is not surprising therefore when Biti’s statement fingered Zanu PF for the violence. He said the “barbaric act of attacking political opponents has always been synonymous with Zanu PF and not the MDC”.

In another statement announcing the formation of a commission to investigate the violence he laid the blame on the CIO for being “at the centre of manufacturing evidence and issues in a bid to implicate the opposition…these old-fashioned divide-and-rule tactics will not fool us”.

But isn’t it that leaders of the two factions have fooled themselves into believing that the opposition movement would be stronger as a divided entity. Biti’s conspiracy theory of CIO involvement cannot be dismissed completely but the intelligence service will always find it easy to stage-manage a war between two already-fighting parties. And what better way to use violence to divide a party that split partly because of unresolved intra-party violence.

t is encouraging to note that a commission of enquiry has been formed to probe the assault on Stevenson and her colleagues. This is how past incidents of violent clashes should have been handled but they were not. Evidence was suppressed.

Recent revelations in this paper by Bulawayo South MP David Coltart on the failure of party leaders to mete out punishment to those accused of trying to murder party director for security, Peter Guhu, in September 2004 at Harvest House and the rehiring of youths accused of violence should be sobering to Tsvangirai’s henchmen who have told us that the party does not condone violence.

The probe should not just be fashioned to flush out the culprits but to put in place systems that send a clear message that violence will not be tolerated. That includes publicising results of probes and ensuring that senior party officials are not seen in the company of the criminal elements.

This observation by Coltart is important: “Young men often have a predisposition towards violence; that happens the world over and Zimbabwe is no different. What controls that predisposition is the manner in which it is handled by leaders. If it is not dealt with, a culture of impunity develops and violence perpetuates itself.”

It stays in the heart.

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