HARARE – President Robert Mugabe must order the arrest of suspected Zanu PF terror gangs that he recently disowned while addressing a rally in Lupane, social and political analysts contend.
At the Lupane presidential youth interface rally, Mugabe said: “I hear there are groups that are moving around beating people. No, that is not our way of doing of things.
“If you see them, push them off the road and give them the punishment they deserve. Do not even wait for the police to come. We cannot have criminals spoiling our good name.”
However, commentators have received the comments with mixed feelings with some describing the president as a wily political fox.
Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) national director Jestina Mukoko said speaking in forked tongues is far from what the issue of violence demands in the run up to the 2018 elections.
“There is no way we can be convinced that the president was speaking against violence when in the same speech he instructs youths to perpetrate violence — when will they know when to stop?
“We are advocating for zero tolerance to all forms of violence. As ZPP we believe that unless those who perpetrate violence are to account for their actions and not by being subjected to more violence, we believe perpetrators will begin to realise how expensive it is to be perpetrators.
Mukoko said she would have accepted if the police were called in to handle those perpetrating violence “rather than call on some youths within the party to deal with these people and then hand them over to the police afterwards. Addressing political violence demands the right hand to know what the left hand is doing.”
Zimbabwe Human Rights director Okay Machisa said while his organisation appreciates any word against violence; it is still worrying that nothing has been done about the recent clandestine wave of destruction of property belonging to opposition politicians.
“For the president to just dissociate his party from these terror gangs and do nothing about it is not enough. That way it would appear as if his only worry is the public damage done to his name and that of his party, and not the rule of law.
“Furthermore, the government of Mugabe continues to react with force to peaceful demonstrations for electoral reforms. There has not been any restraint of the police who use teargas, baton charges and water cannons in public places,” said Machisa.
He added that this selective censure of political violence and the denial of citizen’s constitutional rights, and lack of effort to find groups that have been abducting activists, puts the authorities’ commitment to ending violence in doubt, unless the perpetrators are investigated and sanctioned through the avenues of the law.
“Despite a two-year-old High Court order, for instance, the government has not done anything to trace activist Itai Dzamara, who was abducted in March 2015.
“Just recently a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student, Fanuel Kaseke, was abducted and tortured by yet unknown assailants after a college protest by medical students.
“If the president’s statements against violence are not to be taken as public posturing, his government must act on police brutality and the activities of clandestine groups affiliated to his party,” said Machisa.
Mining activist Farai Maguwu said: “It’s just that the group (youth gang) was operating outside known Zanu PF terror cells, hence its clear objectives are unknown.
“The president is not against political violence but he requires that each act of terror is sanctioned by the party and the executors must be within the hierarchy of the party where they report their activities to their superiors. As it were this group was a loose Canon with no established links with the party leadership.”
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said: “Mugabe is a wily political fox. He always indicates left but invariably he turns right. He never means what he says nor says what he means.
“Fundamentally, he condones political violence as long as it ensures his continued hold on power. You can only trust him at your own peril.”
Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said not a single Zanu PF person has been jailed so far for political violence.
“This proves that Mugabe’s comments are hypocritical — he epitomises violence.
“Mugabe is the chief architect of political violence. It is in his DNA. That is why he was willing to kill white commercial farmers just to expropriate their land. The years 2008 and Gukurahundi were under his watch.”
Zimbabwe Election Support Network director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava said: “As election campaigns heat up we call upon political parties and their supporters to ensure that there is zero tolerance to political violence.
“In addition, there is need to create enforceable punitive measures to eliminate political violence and build a conducive political environment which guarantees the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.
“The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission should also closely liaise with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Zimbabwe Republic Police to bring perpetrators of violence to book.”
Media practitioner Nigel Nyamutumbu said Mugabe has for a long time demonstrated his double standards and hypocrisy on the violence that has characterised Zimbabwe’s political landscape by merely paying lip service to the scourge.
“Had the president been sincere about ending impunity for political violence, we surely would have had more cases of arrests of the perpetrators by the police and we could also have seen more proactive interventions by the respective state agencies in fostering a peaceful political environment.
“As it stands, the president’s disassociation from the violence can at best be described as politicking,” said Nyamutumbu.
Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity (ZIPP) president Blessing Kasiyamhuru said his party calls for peaceful campaigns ahead of the 2018 elections. “The advent of elections violence has conspired to rob citizens of the choice to elect leaders as guaranteed by the constitution of Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwean elections violence situation is both physical and spiritual, simultaneously portraying a dualistic nature yet experienced in a fatal singularity by the victims who are at the sharp end of the stick regardless of the source of the violence.”
Kasiyamhuru added that the electoral violence is Zimbabwe’s public enemy number one followed closely by corruption. “
This phenomenon has disenfranchised more than half of the eligible Zimbabwean voters both within and outside of the borders of Zimbabwe by forcing deep voter apathy in the electorate.
“Voter apathy is the single most self-defeating strategy that any citizen can adopt in a constitutional democracy. It’s mostly as a result of citizens feeling that their choice means nothing, they believe the end is obvious and by so doing giving ultimate advantage to the ruling party.”
The ZIPP president said there are three critical periods in the electoral cycle in which violence occur in Zimbabwe.
“The pre-electoral period; the electoral period (the official campaign period up to and including Election Day); and the post-electoral period (the processing and communication of election results and the aftermath, including electoral dispute resolution.)
“Electoral violence is not limited to just the killing and maiming of citizens but includes intimidation, fear and denial of electoral rights.”
Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said this is a positive statement by the President and anyone who has watched the violence meted on opposition supporters by this group will attest that it is among some of the most heinous.
“The impunity and growing culture of politically-motivated violence is nauseating and instead of ending it here, those who perpetrated the violence are known, now let us see the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators, and let us also see other elements that perpetrate violence youth militia, police being put on a leash,” said Mukundu.