Belt, in one sense, refers to a geographic region where specific conditions, distinctive properties or characteristics are found.
For instance, Benin has been referred to as one of the few countries in Africa’s “coup belt” to have successfully held free and fair elections over the years in a region characterised by military intervention and poll-rigging.
This week the MDC-T conducted the unveiling of the tombstones for five of the party activists who were abducted and killed Tonton Macoute-style during the run-up to the presidential poll runoff of June 2008 after President Robert Mugabe had lost, but not by a margin wide enough to step down, to MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai despite the uneven playing field heavily tilted in Mugabe’s favour through abuse of state institutions and the public media.
As if to confirm their violent nature, Zanu PF youths invaded Warren Hills Cemetery and disrupted proceedings not only at this solemn occasion, but also other burials underway in the vicinity.
The Tonton Macoute militia was created in 1959, two years after François Duvalier became Haiti’s president.
Duvalier unleashed the Tonton Macoutes in a reign of terror against any opponents, including those who proposed progressive social systems.
Those who spoke out against him would disappear at night, or were sometimes attacked in broad daylight.
Tonton Macoutes often stoned and burned people alive. Many times the corpses were put on display for everyone to see.
Family members who tried to remove the bodies for proper burial often disappeared themselves, never to be seen again.
They were believed to have been abducted and killed by the Tonton Macoutes. Anyone who challenged them risked assassination.
Their unrestrained state terrorism was accompanied by corruption, extortion and personal aggrandisement among the leadership.
One of the bodies of the MDC-T activists abducted in 2008 was found days later with the lips and tongue cut off while the other two had knives and screwdrivers sticking out and the eyes gouged.
Bereaved families were also not left to mourn in peace and privacy as the funerals were continually disrupted by Zanu PF supporters and suspected state security agents.
Is this any different to Tonton Macoutes’ methods?
Friend and foe alike have been telling Zanu PF the same message: Stop the violence.
Last year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was quoted in WikiLeaks as saying Mugabe was unwilling to take calls from most African leaders saying they were not his age-mates.
Exactly a year ago, in April, 2010, South Africa’s ruling ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, during a visit to Zimbabwe, said political violence was barbaric and a sign of desperation.
“Political violence is going to make Zanu PF lose elections,” he warned.
In 2008 more than 200 MDC supporters were killed while thousands were displaced.
In view of its massive electoral losses in 2000 and ever since, Zanu PF should have become more reformist-minded and democratic, but instead it has responded by being more vicious, angry and mean.
Nothing, literally nothing, is beyond their reach and wrath, as shown by their sacrilegious disruption of funerals and memorial services for opposition supporters, such as happened on Wednesday at Warren Hills Cemetery.
“We have made the point of ‘no’ to political violence very clear to President Mugabe, Zanu PF and its youth. We have offered them an opportunity to send some of the field marshals to South Africa during our local government elections so that we give them practical engagement and lessons on mobilisation .
. . we will be educating each other politically so that when they come back to Zimbabwe they . . . utilise those ideas to reclaim the lost ground through a peaceful and democratic manner,” Malema said.
Speaking after his closed door meeting with Mugabe, he said: “We need foot soldiers equipped with political fuel. It’s not about how you shout slogans and how you can exercise violence or use AK47s on your people.”
Typically, Malema, who Zanu PF feted like a head of state, did not mince his words. When Malema mentioned this to the embarrassment of his hosts, there wasn’t any suggestion that he was being used like in the vicious and vacuous attack on SA President Jacob Zuma and Sadc in the state media last week.
What Malema said then is no different from what Sadc has said now. The only new factor is that there is more sense of urgency now in view of the uprisings in the Arab world and the possible contagion effect.
As it is, the Swazi monarchy is under siege from citizens demanding more democratic reforms.
Last week Sadc finally came hard on Mugabe about violence. His response was that there had been the mildest of violence as though that is acceptable; and he only referred to the physical aspect of violence without taking into account the psychological effects of threats and intimidation which are rife in this country and peak whenever there is talk of elections.
Instead of equating violence, he should be condemning it unequivocally. This self-serving argument becomes inflexible policy, leading inexorably to confrontation. “The sense of guilt is the hallmark of civilised humanity.”
There is now a democracy belt in Southern Africa but which excludes Zimbabwe along with Swaziland.
Zimbabwe is excluded because the government routinely hits below the belt, i.e., they don’t play by the rules.
They want our vote, not our voice. Other countries have moved forward while Zimbabwe has regressed both politically and economically making it a burden to the region in every way.
The anti-West mantra has run its course. It’s not a case of Mugabe’s wounded pride, but of the welfare of Zimbabweans, the broad national interest.
Sadc has now come out on the side of the people. Sadc has concluded: Enough is enough; this kamikaze politics will take down the whole region with it. People are being as peaceful as possible despite these gross provocations and insults.
Yes, stop insulting and provoking people because you will have an uprising on your hands.