Fresh Fears Of Violent 2018 Poll As Political Clashes Recur

By Sij Ncube

Harare, March 17, 2016 – RECENT incidents of political violence allegedly pitting Zanu PF militia against opposition supporters are a harbinger of things to come ahead of the crunch 2018 polls as fresh allegations against President Robert Mugabe’s party continue emerging, analysts say.

On Tuesday, the Zimbabwe Peace Project fingered Zanu PF as the perpetrator of violence in Harare’s high density Glen View suburb in which supporters of the newly formed Zimbabwe People First were assaulted by people linked to Mugabe’s party.

On Monday, the little-known Transform Zimbabwe alleged that a Zanu PF militia on Sunday abducted six of its members who were later assaulted by soldiers and Zanu PF youths.

The incidents of violence also came hard on the heels of accusations of political violence against Zanu PF by the main opposition MDC-T in Mbare two weeks ago.

In a hard-hitting statement, the ZPP condemned the acrimony which it said betrays “an ingrained and unrelenting intolerance in the rank and file of the ruling party which continuously prevents it from brooking alternative voices”.

ZPP noted that while the Constitution provides for democratic space for multiple and divergent voices on the political landscape, in practice, the ruling Zanu-PF vehemently seeks to close any and all gaps and opportunities for dissenting and alternative voices.

This is in clear violation of citizens’ political rights which state, in part, that every Zimbabwean has the right:  “ (a) To form, to join and to participate in the activities of a political party or organisation of their choice; (b) To campaign freely and peacefully for a political party or cause;…” (Chapter 4: [67:2]).

Critics say the continued disregard of the Constitution flies in the face of all tenets of democracy, which ZPP says is very regrettable.

Apart from disturbing the body politic ahead of future polls by creating trauma among citizens, analysts are adamant political violence has the likelihood of scarring away potential investors at a time the country is technically broke.

Gladys Hlatwayo, a political analyst based in Harare, says it is known that retrogressive elements only abandon violence when the political cost is higher as was the case in the 2013 elections when SADC and the international community were closely following the situation.

“Otherwise it’s always in their (Zanu PF) bag of tricks,” said Hlatshwayo.

Ricky Mukonza, a political analyst based in South Africa, says on the political front, the re-emergence of violence is likely to instil fear in citizens and discourage them from participating in political activities including voting.

“This will add on to other factors such as lack of confidence in the electoral system, thus leading to high apathy levels. This is an area that opposition should come together and try to eradicate as it works in favour of Zanu PF,” said Mukonza.

ZPP, whose director Jestina Mukoko recently won an international award as one of the most courageous woman in the world, added its voice on the issue, saying the human rights organisation remains concerned with the continued failure of the ruling party to rein in its membership and deal decisively and directly with the scourge of violence.

“The absence of curtailing action by the ruling party’s leadership, suggests that violence is in fact ignored if not out rightly condoned.  

“We urge members and the leadership of the ruling party to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt their intolerance for violence.

“Yet again, ZPP calls for the sanctioning of perpetrators of political violence, intimidation and other forms of harassment at party level and by relevant law enforcement agents across the board, without fear or favour.

“Violent-free politics is possible and must begin at individual level; be fostered and buttressed at party level; and be enforced by law enforcement agents across the nation.”

Human rights defender, Vivid Gwede, warned the incidents of violence were a sign of more violence as the country trudged closer to 2018 polls.

“It is the entire country which suffers when political violence occurs. It is going to stall any economic recovery but I see more trouble ahead of the next elections,” said Gwede.