Mugabe banks on violence

“Soon after I discovered that my husband had been killed by Zanu (PF) thugs, I quickly covered him with a blanket and rushed to Gutu police station where I narrated my ordeal to six policemen. But when I told them that the perpetrators were well-known Zanu (PF) supporters and that the team was headed by a Colonel, they told me to go home as they were not entertaining ‘political cases’.”

Relatives, friends and villagers openly celebrate the lives of the deceased for the first time after the 2008 gruesome murders
Relatives, friends and villagers openly celebrate the lives of the deceased for the first time after the 2008 gruesome murders

The above testimony was recorded by the pro-democracy NGO, Heal Zimbabwe, on 2 July this year during a memorial service for an MDC-T supporter murdered by Zanu (PF) militants and the army in Gutu East in 2008. It is part of a huge dossier that gives chilling evidence of the genocide committed by President Robert Mugabe’s backers as he desperately clung to power after losing elections to MDC President, Morgan Tsvangirai, that year.

As the prospect of another bruising election looms, ordinary Zimbabweans, politicians and human rights defenders are watching with alarm the violence pervading the country. Those who can manage are fleeing the country in droves. Others are leaving the countryside in the hope of finding safety in cities and towns. Many more have already made the decision not to participate, fearing a backlash if they vote for the ‘wrong’ party.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have said the election will take place in 2012, although they are still haggling over a possible date. Mugabe, who is suffering from poor health, says he will not go beyond March next year before declaring an election date. Tsvangirai says an election can only be possible after a new constitution is in place and other reforms agreed in the Global Political Agreement are implemented.

The continuing violence by Zanu (PF) is a direct violation of what Mugabe signed up to on September 15, 2008, in the presence of regional leaders acting as observers. Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara made a commitment to “…build a society free of violence, fear, intimidation, hatred, patronage, corruption and founded on justice, fairness, openness, transparency, dignity and equality.”

GPA flouted

What many see as an alarming trend is that the Southern African Development Community and African Union guarantors of the GPA have not taken any effective action to reign in Mugabe.

“Intensified violence against those deemed to be Zanu (PF) enemies has exposed the limitations of Zimbabwe’s much-delayed reform process and threatens to derail the GPA,” says the Johannesburg-based Institute for Democracy in Southern Africa (Idasa) in a new report.

“Mugabe’s call for early elections has increased fears of a return to 2008’s violence. Eventual elections are inevitable but without credible, enforceable reforms, Zimbabwe faces another illegitimate vote and prospects of entrenched polarisation and crisis. Zanu (PF) is increasingly confident it can intimidate opponents and frustrate reform, and there is waning faith, internally and externally, in MDC-T capacities. Without stronger international pressure on Zanu (PF), the tenuous current coalition may collapse, triggering further violence and grave consequences for Southern Africa.”

A lot to hide

Many Zimbabweans fear that the current spate of violence is just a prelude of what is to come if Mugabe loses the election – as is widely predicted by opinion polls and political analysts. In 2008, Mugabe used members of the army, police and state spy agency CIO to unleash a horrific wave of violence against perceived opponents. He also used the military to doctor election results and force a run-off which he effectively rigged through murder, rape, torture and other heinous crimes. Experts now predict a repeat of this.

Idasa suggested strengthening important institutions, including parliamentary committees and the Human Rights, Media and Electoral Commissions, but said it was unlikely that meaningful security sector reform could be implemented in the absence of a democratic constitution.

Mugabe’s defiance has shocked the international community. He has brazenly flouted SADC guidelines on democratic elections, denying regional monitors and observers timely access. He has rejected moves by SADC to introduce regional officials to assist the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee deal with growing cases of violence.

Mugabe has already shown that he has a lot to hide by declaring that international observers will not be welcome.

Instruments of terror

The instruments of terror are already in place. Military sources told The Zimbabwean that the two battalions deployed on so-called ‘AC duties’ in 2002 – working undercover among civilians – have not been recalled.

Recently, there has also been a lot of movement, with soldiers being sent on lengthy paid vacations of up to three months so that they can spy on the civilian population. The MDC-T alleged that Zanu (PF) had a militia force of 80 000 waiting in the wings to cause terror as soon as it emerged that Mugabe was losing the electoral race.

Among Zanu (PF)’s shock troops are war veterans, youth militia and a band of thugs known as Chipangano, based in Mbare but often deployed countrywide to cause mayhem. “Vigilante groups such as Chipangano and several other militia groups have allegedly been harassing, intimidating, raping, assaulting people in communities for holding a different political opinion or failing to attend their party’s meetings,” said the Zimbabwe Peace Project which monitors acts of political violence and is led by award-winning human rights defender Jestina Mukoko.

“ZPP appeals to the leaders of political parties to go beyond making public statements denouncing violence and take stern actions against their party members responsible for spearheading political violence.”

Master of Chicanery

Mugabe is a master of this kind of chicanery. During the recent opening of Parliament, he preached peace in the House of Assembly as his supporters unleashed an orgy of violence just outside the chamber. This resulted in howls of condemnation for his speech.

The MP for the violence-wracked Bindura South constituency, Bednock Nyaude said: “The reported progress on issues related to the holding of elections is a welcome development. However, these elections, when they finally land, must be free of violence, fair and credible, reflecting the peoples will.”

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network a coalition of NGOs involved in elections, headed by prominent rights activist Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, lists violence as one of the key hurdles to the holding of free and fair elections in the country.

Zesn called for “a total end and denunciation of politically related violence and prosecution of the perpetrators of all forms of political violence, and that SADC ensures a non-violent, free and fair election that respects the will of the people of Zimbabwe”.

Post published in: Politics

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