Mugabe’s pleas for peace: falling on deaf ears?

When President Robert Mugabe finally spoke out against political violence earlier this year many heaved sighs of relief. They genuinely believed that this, coming from his authoritative self, would bring an end to the brutal violence which has bedevilled the country for decades.


In an hour-long address during his 88th birthday celebrations, Mugabe urged his supporters not to resort to violence. He said, “We used to fight each other. Time has now come for us to do our politics in a much more cultured way. Although our differences are ideological and sometimes quite negative, we must not regard them as a source of hatred. Those opposed to us are also a part of our society. We should recognise their rights. So, no, to violence. No, no, no, no to violence!”

After this moving speech, parties in the coalition government proposed to hold joint rallies where the public would be urged to stop political violence.

Some, including the writer and trusted analysts, are sceptical and wary. They remember what is often said: “Zanu ndeye ropa. Tamba wakachenjera.” (Zanu thrives on blood. One must be careful when playing with it).

Even as the President was speaking about the need for peace, his followers were beating up journalists and MPs right inside Parliament while the police watched without raising a finger. Violence continues across the country despite his calls for peace. One can, logically, come to two conclusions. Either he is speaking with a forked tongue and is not sincere – talking about peace in public but privately urging his people to continue with the violence.

Or, violence has become so entrenched in Zanu (PF) culture that it will take more than the president’s words to root it out. He may be sincere but his own people have been perpetrating violence on their perceived enemies with impunity for so long that they don’t believe that he means what he is saying.

If Mugabe is sincere, his words must be followed by action against the perpetrators. As long as known perpetrators, who have tortured, injured and killed innocent people for political reasons, continue to walk the streets freely, nobody is going to take him seriously.

Just a few days ago, Tendai Savanhu, a former Zanu (PF) MP, spewed a hate speech that was nakedly racist. He threatened to eliminate the current MP for Marondera, Iain Kay just because he happens to be white.

Savanhu’s hate-filled speech was a far cry from 1980 independence- day when Mugabe fervently preached reconciliation, peace and unity between the races. After his peace crusade, Mugabe would have been expected to rebuke Savanhu for preaching such violent vitriol. One can safely bet that if what Savanhu said had been said by a member of any party other than Zanu (PF) they would be behind bars by now.

It was reported this week that MDC-T cabinet ministers and MPs were banned from holding rallies in Harare by Chipangano. Piniel Denga, MP for Mbare, was recently banned from the area and beaten up by Zanu (PF) after he had visited to supervise his Constituency Development Fund projects.

Does this sound like a party whose leader is serious about bringing about peace and stability?

This reality makes it clear that the leopard has not and is not about to change its spots. It would, therefore, be foolhardy for any party to hold joint peace rallies with Zanu (PF). That party has lost the confidence and support of the people. Tambai makachenjera.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis
  1. Pythias Makonese

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