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Editor’s Memo

Let’s shun language of violence

By Joram Nyathi

“YOU saw and heard what happened in Kenya. It’s nothing compared to what we will have here if Mugabe rigs the elections again. You can&#8

217;t have a thief rob you twice and let him keep his hands.”

These deplorable words were attributed by the media to Kuwadzana MP, Nelson Chamisa when he addressed a rally in Harare at the weekend. There have been attempts by Chamisa since then to claim lamely that he was in fact misquoted.

He said disingenuously that he couldn’t have made those threats of violence even if the harmonised March elections are rigged because he has been a victim of violence himself.

Even if we were to be charitable and give Chamisa the benefit of the doubt, it would still need to be done with a serious caveat: that this is a party whose leaders have never known the simple old adage about looking before you leap. They have proved very reckless with their mouths and minds but are quick to cry “wolf” when those who wield the instruments of state call their bluff.

In my column last week I wrote of these “opportunistic and self-serving lessons” from the post-election violence in Kenya following the controversial reelection of Mwai Kibaki. I stated there that inducing people to vote in a certain way for fear of violence should the election result be disputed amounts to “democracy by fear”. Such an outcome doesn’t represent the free will of the people, it doesn’t matter how hated the Akambeni president might be.

That was meant as an appeal for maturity on all the political parties and their politicians as Zimbabweans prepare for the elections in March. I didn’t know somebody like Chamisa could miss that point and still go on to agitate for violence in the event that the “usual” external observers decide to declare the vote “stolen”. This is the same party that daily preaches “change” and we naively assume that change includes an end to the culture of violence and respect for the rule of law. I must say I am distressed.

I can’t even imagine the hue and cry we would have heard from the MDC and its allies if the ruling Zanu PF had raised the prospect of a bloodbath if it loses the election. There would have been a huge outcry about voter-intimidation and an escalation of violence.

Another lesson from the Kenyan election which should have been evident to Honourable Chamisa, a lesson which should be learnt by his colleagues so that they guard their mouths, is that people are fickle and love gratuitous violence once they are provided with a little tinder. The trouble is that once the violence starts and thugs join in, then it assumes a life of its own, well beyond Chamisa’s powers.

We have warned over the years of the party’s indecisiveness when it comes to election time. Whatever the allegations of rigging against Zanu PF, this lack of decisiveness has always played to Zanu PF’s advantage.

When a party is undecided whether or not to participate in an election until the last minute, three things are likely to happen: its supporters will be reluctant to register to vote and so will not vote. Naturally they will be turned away from the polling station and the MDC will cry foul but forget its role in this whole thing.

Secondly, once the message is stressed too often that the vote will be rigged and that the outcome is “predetermined” then there is no need for people to go and cast their vote. Then we get the usual noise where apathy is the victor.

In any case, a party which goes into an election vowing not to accept a certain outcome is predisposing its supporters to violence. It is telling its supporters: “Don’t accept loss, hack off innocent people’s hands so that we have a bargaining chip to get into power.” such a party is dangerous.

We all know what a mess the Zanu PF government has made of this beautiful country because all they can ever come up with are survival rather than development policies. A challenge we have also posed to the MDC is to sell the people their policies on how they intend to reverse the economic slide and break the political deadlock in the country. It is a challenge they have refused to take, we are told, because Zanu PF will “steal” their policies.

Instead, we are again told, they want a complete breakdown of everything so that when they come in and put things right. This is all evident in threats that if they boycott the elections, Zimbabwe will be further isolated and things will only get worse. Is this the mentality and spirit of a people’s party? So people must continue to suffer because only the MDC can end the country’s isolation, and only the MDC can confer legitimacy on the election?

Now we have these threats of Kenyan-style havoc should they suspect that the elections have been stolen, even if their supporters didn’t register because of confusion in the leadership, and were therefore nowhere near the polling station on election day?

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