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Comment: When Will This Violence End?

REPORTS of violence continue to pour in with claims by the opposition that at least 20 innocent villagers have been butchered to death in the past month.

Hospitals have provided the best evidence of this violence.

They are teeming with victims of this senseless terror.

The afflicted carry all manner of injuries including broken limbs, burns, lacerations and badly bruised buttocks.

Their tales are consistent with systematic terror and they have all pointed accusing fingers at Zanu PF supporters, police, army and other security forces.

Zanu PF’s story of violence is well-ducumented.

Civic groups monitoring the situation have said that the situation is deteriorating with each passing day with hundreds of people requiring relief aid after being displaced from their homes.

There are reports of military deployments in the countryside and the setting up of torture bases in Mashonaland Central and East.

The Zanu PF government — not for the first time — stands accused of fighting its own people and inflicting pain on those accused of not supporting the perpetuity of President Mugabe’s rule.

As accusations continue to pour in, state institutions accused of violence have concomitantly raised the tempo of denial.

Firstly the government denied that there was any violence around the country.

Then there were accusations that it was the opposition perpetrating the violence and not security personnel and Zanu PF supporters.

This week the army sent us a statement advising that the military had nothing to do with the violence across the country, but people are complaining about being beaten by soldiers.

In between, there have been statements by government officials suggesting that the police and Zanu PF supporters had a right to beat up opposition supporters upon “provocation”.

We heard the same defence of institutional violence from the highest office when Tsvangirai together with opposition and civic leaders were bludgeoned by police last year.

They would be “bashed” again if they provoked the police, President Mugabe said.

Last Saturday State Security minister Didymus Mutasa was quoted by the Globe & Mail of Canada justifying some of the beatings.

Mutasa said the MDC members were attacked only when they seriously provoked Zanu PF supporters.

“They are being beaten because they are provoking people,” said Mutasa. “People don’t cease to be human because of an election. They still get irritated by an act of provocation and beat they will, if they are angry.” 

Voila! But what kind of leadership is this from a minister entrusted with the security of the country?

Ordinary villagers have ceased to be human because they have been turned into instruments of terror by senseless politicians.

The attempt at brushing away the violence or justifying it in the name of maintaining law and order has however failed to conceal the phenomenon which is attracting a bad press for Mugabe and Zanu PF.

There has been a sprinkling of stories in the state media trying to link the opposition to the violence and some suggesting that a couple of farmers had used pepper spray to inflict harm on a whole battalion of war veterans. 

It would be foolish for the government to expect to arouse local and international sympathy from this feeble attempt to portray themselves as victims — with all the might of state institutions on call.

The history of Zimbabwean politics is littered with violence whose bloody trail leads to the doors of state institutions.

This past record of terror can never be laundered by denying the self-evident state culpability.

History has also shown that political violence does not always just erupt.

It is caused by influential people and institutions for selfish ends.

It is usually poor people who are used as pawns by so-called political liberators. 

There are parts of the country where violence has erupted every time there is an election.

This is a disturbing trend which seems to suggest that there are politicians who now regard violence as an acceptable political process and part and parcel of the Zimbabwean political culture.

They also regard pain, misery and death as an occupational hazard in the political game. It is not surprising therefore that those who murdered MDC activists and farmers six years ago are walking free.

But this has to stop forthwith because there is no society which has ever developed and prospered on the back of the sort of violence we are currently experiencing in the country.

We welcome efforts by the international community to probe the extent of the violence in the country.

This undertaking must ultimately ensure that violence stops.

It is the duty of politicians to show some kind of maturity without inciting acts of more violence, which brings misery to some while others revel in it.

Any government that makes it its business to wage war against unarmed civilians does not deserve to lead such a people.

The Zanu PF government was rejected at the polls because of its culpability in the current crisis.

Adding violence and terror to its already tainted CV will not improve the situation. It’s time for a change.

Zimbabwe needs to move forward.

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