HomeOpinionEditor’s Memo: Political violence retrogressive

Editor’s Memo: Political violence retrogressive

By Faith Zaba

THE political violence that Zimbabweans witnessed in the past week has made me reminisce over the 2018 pre-election period. I wondered why the country has not ditched a shameful history of violence. Zimbabwe had made remarkable strides towards political tolerance during that period. We had arguably the most peaceful pre-election period since the 1980 independence.

I remember vividly the MDC Alliance demonstration on June 5, 2018, which was followed by a Zanu PF march within the same week. It was truly remarkable for an MDC Alliance demonstration ending in peace.

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, 2018 elections.

It seemed like the turning point for Zimbabwe, whose police in the past would have made it difficult for opposition parties or any organisation to publicly demonstrate against perceived governance injustices.

Previously, the police would have sprayed teargas, fired water cannons and beat up protestors.

The serenity was different from previous heavy-handed responses. The new found peace was applauded.

However, this was short-lived. Fast forward to August 1, 2018, the Zanu PF government’s die hard habits were once again exposed as it responded ruthlessly to violent protests by the opposition and opened fire on unarmed civilians, claiming innocent lives in the process.

In the past week, as electioneering gears up ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and his entourage were reportedly attacked by Zanu PF youths in Masvingo and Manicaland.

On Tuesday, it was reported that heavily armed Zanu PF supporters allegedly fired gunshots, hitting a rear window on Chamisa’s car on the outskirts of Mutare.

In Masvingo, Chamisa, was attacked by a group of Zanu PF supporters who were waving placards, accusing him of inviting sanctions on the country.

While the MDC Alliance has described the attacks as “assassination attempts” on Chamisa, Zanu PF has accused the opposition leader of stage-managing the attacks to draw the attention of the international community.

This comes as the United Nations special rapporteur, Alena Douhan is in the country at the invitation of the government to probe the impact of sanctions on human rights in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has a history of political violence, dating back to the colonial era. Political conflict is retrogressive and has adversely impacted on Zimbabwe’s socio-economic fabric. Inter-party violence contributing largely, besides mismanagement of the economy by former president Robert Mugabe’s administration, to ruining the country’s fortunes.

Both Zanu PF and opposition political leaders — the catalysts of violence in the past — need to commit to peaceful electioneering.

Supporters were violent in the previous election campaigns because leaders from both the ruling and opposition parties fanned the violence. Partisan politics by state security agencies also contributed immensely.

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.

Political violence is detrimental and costly, not only to human life, but also 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 amplifies the fact that conflict disrupts the economy, upsets social order and derails human life.

This is why we are saying Zimbabwe has to turn the corner and move toward a more equitable election campaign in which the historic trajectory of political violence is profoundly altered. Political violence is primitive and must stop forthwith.

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading