Considering that charity begins at home, it is difficult to fight general political violence if we neglect the parties themselves. Once violent cultures are created and sustained within the parties, it becomes difficult to deal with this scourge when it becomes general and transforms into inter-party fights.
In almost all the cases, recent incidents of violence have been offset by selfish individuals who mobilise groups of supporters and set them on each other as a way of gaining or keeping power. The violence is merely a tool used by politicians to achieve personal goals.
For instance, members of Zanu (PF) deployed their hooligans to beat others in the same party during the provincial elections in late 2013. In recent weeks, MDC-T has been rocked by similar fights over succession matters.
The sad thing is that, in all the cases where political violence is used, it achieves far less than it intends to gain. Lives have been lost, people have been injured and brother has been set upon brother. Tension, suspicion and hatred have affected communities where politicians have fanned violence and it will be a long time before stability and co-existence can be restored.
Similarly, intra-party violence has increased intolerance among people who claim – during the day -that they are proponents of democracy. The net effect is that Zimbabwe gets a bad name because the outside world tends to see us as an uncivilized lot.
That is why it is vital that we re-examine intra-party violence and devise ways of putting a stop to it. One way of doing so is to introduce legislation that deters members of political parties from engaging in internal violence. While the existing laws address the malaise through prosecution, fining and even imprisonment, they are inadequate.
We need to consider politically-motivated violence as a separate and distinct form of violence that should receive instant deterrent punishment. Even where individual members may be charged for assault, it is desirable for the parties themselves to impose heavy fines and other forms of discipline internally.
Parties must also be forced to make through and timely investigations into any incidents of violence. Where leaders are found to be at fault, they should be suspended or even banned from politics for some time. Similar measures should be taken against parties and their members who instigate violence against outside political enemies.Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga