PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Tuesday, during the opening of parliament, repeated his sustained calls for the cessation of political violence ahead of crucial elections.
Report by Dumisani Muleya
“Let us all shun violence in all its manifestations and latent forms, especially as we look forward to our national elections,” he said.
Ordinarily, we should all be commending him for his continuous demands for political parties to stop violence to allow peaceful campaigns ahead of elections.
However, what is happening is there are various forms of reactions to Mugabe’s appeals, which are occasionally contradicted by events on the ground and statements by his allies.
At one level, some people welcomed Mugabe’s remarks, saying they are helping to ease political tensions and discourage violence which has had a devastating impact on Zimbabwe’s sociopolitical and economic spheres.
Some are however sceptical. While they appreciate his efforts, they are wondering if he is well-meaning. They ask whether he is not trying to manipulate and deceive people towards a self-serving political objective and outcome.
Given Mugabe’s record of broken promises and deception, these are legitimate questions. Is he now seriously renouncing violence or simply wants to deceive the electorate? Is this not one of his deceptive traps? Those asking these questions wish what Mugabe is saying is genuine, but they can’t trust him.
They think this is part of his usual shenanigans to manage the next elections.
And then there is a cynical body of opinion which says this is clear political deception. Those who hold this view are not just cynical but also contemptuous of his remarks which they see as deceit.
For that reason some are wondering how much longer will it take for Zimbabweans to grow tired of such obvious trickeries and turn away from deceptive leaders and their parties. They say only the uninitiated would believe Mugabe’s smoke-and-mirror refrains.
Thus they insist a conclusion which says he has changed and may be trying to atone for his past mistakes should only be viewed as naïve and delusional. For Mugabe the end justifies the means.
Actually, the reason why some people distrust his messages on violence is simple: the language of brutality, intolerance and repression in Zimbabwe is associated with him and his party which has “degrees in violence”.
From the 1980s atrocities to the 2008 political killings, Mugabe and other senior Zanu PF officials have openly incited political violence. The words and metaphors they use –– that is if they are not nakedly instigating brutality ––have always been inflammatory.
Consider this. Their political rivals have been referred to as “snakes”, “ants”, “sellouts”, “traitors” and “enemies” that must be crushed. Invariably, this has caused violence.
Zanu PF leaders often resort to incitement during election periods. If one revisits their records, they would sometimes be shocked, not just by the words and phrases they used, but the extent to which they were prepared to go to stoke emotions and political fires.
Utterances by political leaders can build or destroy. Leaders’ commitment to democracy and human rights is most tested when they are facing negative criticism or their grip on power is under threat. Some react by showing political tolerance, while others display savagery.
Over the years, Zimbabwean leaders have made statements which contributed to peace or violence. They sometimes used virulent and overheated rhetoric, as well as condemnations of opponents and critics which polarised and divided society.
As a result most of the violence in Zimbabwe can be traced to unscrupulous leaders acting out of greed for power and resources. So let’s hope Mugabe’s current anti-violence campaign is genuine, but then he must start to walk the talk if he is to be believed.