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Feature: The ugly face of political violence

BY TENDAI MAKARIPE

“NATIONAL liberation, national reawakening, restoration of the nation to the people or Commonwealth, whatever the name used, whatever the latest expression, decolonisation is a violent event.”

The above expression is the opening sentence in radical political thinker Frantz Fanon’s magnum opus The Wretched of the Earth, which he penned in a feverish spurt between April and July of 1961.

In a chapter on violence, Fanon glorifies the use of violence as a means to obliterate colonialism and usher independence.

While the use of violence may be justified, there are countless instances in global politicking where violence is unnecessarily used.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is in complete violation of the dictates of the United Nations Charter whose establishment is rooted in the promotion of international peace and cooperation.

The invasion is also a laugh in the face of international humanitarian law, which seeks, among other things, to ensure protection of civilians in armed conflict.

However, while the world’s eyes are transfixed on Russia, a disturbing trend has resurfaced in our backyard. So disconcerting is the fact that over the past few days, a life was lost at the altar of politically motivated violence.

As the nation gears for the March 26 by-elections, violent conflict has stuck its ugly head in politics.

Country-people have turned against each other, mercilessly and brutally beating up each and killing a person in cold blood because they hold divergent views.

This is disheartening judging by the events of this past weekend.

The Preamble of Zimbabwe’s Constitution states that: “We the people of Zimbabwe are united in our diversity by our common desire for freedom, justice, and equality”.

It emphasises the pivotal importance of tolerance, which is being trampled on in contemporary local politicking.

Experts have divergent views on what they think perpetuates a culture of political violence in the country.

Power and resources are concentrated at the centre, raising the stakes of elections and it has become politics of the stomach.

Media and conflict resolution researcher Lazarus Sauti argues that the interests of the elite are normally pursued, leaving the poor marginalised.

“Minority groups are annihilated. Women, the youth and persons with disabilities (PwDs) are underrepresented. This suppresses not only their voices but political interests as well,” he said.

“As such, the interests of minority groups in Zimbabwe are not being satisfied but still their vote will be required.”

Political analyst Jethro Makumbe believes what is happening is not surprising considering the elections history.

“Zanu PF thrives on unleashing violence and fear. However, elections must be a contestation of ideas and not a blood hunt where politicians fight and lacerate innocent citizens for appreciating politics differently,” Makumbe said.

“Political parties, both Zanu PF and CCC (Citizens Coalition for Change) need to make public declarations exhorting their supporters to refrain from political violence.

“The leadership must choose their political banter carefully in a way that does not cultivate hatred and polarisation amongst the people. The recent utterances by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga that CCC needs to be crushed like lice, is one such dangerous statement that can be easily taken out of context by gullible supporters and end up hurting political rivals,” he said.

Sauti said the outbreak of political violence shows that Zimbabweans are generally angry.

“It also shows that people are angry, we are an angry nation, and tolerance is not part of our mindset. People are using politics and elections to vent their anger,” Sauti said.

The suspected killers, who were arrested over the murder of a CCC party member, are all unemployed, according to police documents.

Chances, therefore, are that they will not be able to secure legal representation.

The question is, why then should people murder and maim each other over politicians whose aim is to acquire, maintain and exercise power?

Zanu PF intends to entrench its hegemony as the dominant party in the country while CCC wants to wrest power from the incumbent. It is a battle for control, supremacy, power, and resources and not about enhancing the lives of the people.

This explains why you rarely hear local politicians eloquently articulating how they will improve the lives of Zimbabweans.

Their speeches are pregnant with empty rhetoric, tired slogans laced with hate speech, which only serve to fuel violence and conflict.

Fanon predicted this would happen in post-independent states.

“They mobilise people with the slogan of independence, and anything else is left to the future. When these parties are questioned on their economic agenda for the nation or the regime they propose to establish they prove incapable of giving an answer because, in fact, they do not have a clue about the economy of their own country. This economy has always developed outside their control,” Fanon wrote.

No politician is worth killing for; no politician is worth dying for!

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