IT was remarkable this week to see a demonstration of great magnitude by the MDC Alliance ending in peace and harmony. Thousands of opposition coalition supporters staged a massive demonstration in Harare, petitioning the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and government to implement electoral reforms ahead of the July 30 general polls. The march started from Africa Unity Square to Zec offices.
Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
In the past, the police would have made it difficult for the opposition parties or any organisation to publicly demonstrate against perceived governance injustices. The police would have sprayed teargas, fired water cannons and beat up protestors. It would have most certainly ended in violence and looting of goods in shops.
Even though Zanu PF’s reaction to stage its own march the following day, calling for peace during elections, was ill-advised, it was also peaceful. The serenity was also different from past violent responses, where Zanu PF would have immediately attacked and hunted down protesters in townships. This new found peace must be applauded.
The reason why this development is commendable is because the alternative is detrimental and costly, not only to human life, but also to the economy.
According to the Global Peace Index report produced by the international think-tank, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the economic impact of violence was US$14,8 trillion in 2017, equivalent to 12,4% of global gross domestic product or nearly US$2 000 per person. This per amplifies the fact that conflict disrupts the economy, upsets social order and derails human life. This is why we are today celebrating the obtaining co-existence between the country’s two main political parties.
However, it indicates that political leaders are catalysts of violence. Supporters were being violent in the previous election campaigns because leaders from both the ruling and opposition parties fanned it. Partisan bias by state security agencies also contributed immensely.
Political conflict has always been tearing asunder Zimbabwe’s socio-economic fabric, contributing largely, besides mismanagement of the economy by former president Robert Mugabe’s administration, to ruining the country’s fortunes. The country was at a near standstill due to internal political conflict, which saw foreign direct investment plunging to the lowest of any economy in the region. This is because businesses detest investing in a volatile political environment, where citizens are mercilessly killed and constantly displaced.
A peaceful environment is largely associated with economic merits. According to IEP: “This year’s report also finds that highly-peaceful countries have considerable economic advantages over the least peaceful countries; inflation rates are nearly three times higher in low peace economies, interest rates were found to be over twice as high and foreign direct investment was nearly half”. We normally concentrate on the human aspect of violence and forget that it is also costly on the economic and social order.
Peaceful marches should herald a new beginning in Zimbabwe’s politics, where elections are conducted in a free and peaceful environment.