Who is to blame for the political violence in Zimbabwe?

Is it the Top leadership? (GPA Principals)

Is it the National, Provincial or Constituency leadership?

Or is it the grassroots?

Barely days after a strong call for peace in Zimbabwe by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navy Pillay, Mr. Cephas Magura an MDC- T ward Chairperson lost his life in Mudzi on Saturday 26 June 2012 as a result of political violence. The deceased was laid to rest on Sunday 3 June 2012 in Mudzi North. But the question that boggles the mind of many is who really is to blame for the violence bedeviling Zimbabwe. Mr Magura lost his life after he was attacked by suspected ZANU Pf youths who had come to disrupt a police sanctioned rally. The incident was a typical politically motivated murder case not really new in Zimbabwean politics and one is forced to ask why when the word peace has become a chorus at all public gatherings convened by political leaders.

Yesterday, 4 June there were skirmishes between the police and MDC youths who were demonstrating against the continued incarceration of the party youth President, Solomon Madzore and 28 others over allegations of murdering a police officer in Glen View in May 2011.The suspects led by their defence counsel vehemently deny the charge arguing that the police officer was killed during a scuffle between the police and revellers at a beer hall. The case has been pending for over a year now. The accused state in their defence outlines that they are victims of police profiling where the police just target them as they are well known MDC members and every time there are skirmishes between state agents and the public, they are the easy target.

There have been accusations and counter accusations between MDC and ZANU Pf over who really is to blame on the violence that has been rocking the country. Bodies instituted to monitor and address cases of violence like JOMIC have found it difficult to keep quiet and have this to say:

• Ms Oppah Muchinguri from ZANU PF and co-chairperson of JOMIC highlighted that the provincial leadership in Mashonaland East should be held accountable for the violence that led to the death of Mr. Magura. She also blamed politicians from all political parties for hiring Chipangano to cause political violence. In her statements there is some blame shifting and she acknowledge long standing confusion as to who is Chipangano and how it operates.

• Mr. Frank Chamunorwa from MDC N and also co-chairperson of JOMIC blamed the violence on the three principals to the GPA stating that they should have cascaded the peace indabas to the grassroots and most violence prone areas if they were sincere in a never again stance on violence rather than meeting in hotels as “window dressing” to the challenge of political violence. He might be seeing the light, civil society organizations have tried to spearhead peace building activities in remote parts of the country but politicians are quick to denounce them and say they are serving foreign interests yet they try to carry the message of peace from the national level to the grassroots. There is a huge gap between the call for peace at national level and the heavily polarized grassroots.

• Hon Tabitha Khumalo from MDC T and also co-chairperson of JOMIC states that it is not necessary to lose lives as a result of political violence and highlighted that political activists should find amongst themselves ways of solving their differences amicably. She wants the grassroots to solve their own differences, but what about those political leaders who give orders to the grassroots to “discipline stray members” of the community?

It is Heal Zimbabwe’s contention that for political violence to be genuinely addressed in the country, there is need for an all inclusive approach from the political leadership, state apparatus to the grassroots. Unless genuine institutional reforms take place especially in the police force and judiciary sector it can be difficult to address this monster called violence. An eyewitness of the skirmishes in Mudzi Ms Mashingaidze, blames the police for failing to contain the situation. The Police should conduct their duty in a transparent and non partisan manner. Because of polarization, many lives continue to be lost in cases where violence could have been avoided.

Heal Zimbabwe has with difficulties managed to interact with rural communities mainly those that recorded highest number of politically motivated violence cases and the trend is that there are some political leaders who tell their rural structures and followers that the GPA is an Urban Pact and does not apply to the rural and remote areas. In order to address this, there was serious need for political sensitization soon after the signing of the GPA where people especially in rural areas would be addressed by the top leadership of all political parties. It is at these public platforms where the people were supposed to be encouraged to desist from political violence and promote a culture of tolerance. It is prudent for each political party to be in a position to take disciplinary action against its members found instigating violence.

There is need for all the national political leaders to denounce violence not on the television and newspapers only but should travel to Chaona, Mudzi, Muzarabani, Mbire, Wenimbi dam surroundings, Uzumba, Maramba and Pfungwe constituencies among other hot spots where cases of violence are rampant and communication is still a challenge due to poor wireless reception. The grassroots should be told by the leadership themselves to stop fighting. It is high time this chain of violence is broken before any further loss of lives.

It then becomes far fetched for political leaders to call for elections under these unfavorable conditions. A major prerequisite for a peaceful election is for the GPA Principals to hold joint peace rallies like those marathon rallies they do when the election date is near. Some are on record of holding three rallies per day and if these could be peace rallies then violence can be curtailed as it is a fact that in Zimbabwe elections are synonymous with political violence. It is on record that there is a correlation between the call for elections in Zimbabwe and an upsurge in cases of violence. Violence should not be tolerated at any cost and it is our hope that the law will be applied without fear or favour on the Mudzi perpetrators.

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