Taking potshots at political opponents is a time-honoured tradition.
In progressive societies where freedom of thought is ingrained in the political culture, it is done in good faith with the undisguised intent of scoring political points or dislodging a rival from a coveted position of power.
In Zimbabwe taking potshots and criticism has taken an added dimension. It has degenerated into invective and crude attacks on political foes.
There is cause for concern because we have in our hands the makings of a poisoned political climate which could degenerate into a physical contest of 2008 proportions.
I am troubled by the lack of civility in the national political debate. This is no longer usual politicking that precedes a general election. It is a call to arms which has been accentuated by the bitter rivalry between Zanu PF and MDCs after the Sandton Summit two weeks ago.
Merchants of trouble have been scrambled to make incendiary statements to prime supporters for conflict.
The atmosphere is indeed poisoned as reflected by the Jomic meeting in Chimanimani at the weekend where political leaders from Zanu PF and the MDC-T elected to engage in verbal combat in full view of their supporters instead of dealing with violence: the primary reason the meeting had been convened.
Cynics will be quick to condemn Jomic for not having the necessary teeth to rescue the situation. This is my point of departure with those training their arrows on Jomic.
Jomic is not a peacekeeping force monitoring or enforcing a ceasefire. Its mandate is to monitor compliance with, and progress on, items agreed on within the GPA.
The meeting in Chinamimani revealed lack of compliance and progress. Its other key function is to “serve as catalyst in creating and promoting an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding between the parties”.
This is the missing link in Zimbabwean politics today.
There is no atmosphere of mutual trust even on issues that appear straightforward like the outcome of the Sandton meeting. The feuding started off as semantic bickering over the definition of “noted”.
It has degenerated to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai calling President Mugabe a “liar”. Zanu PF officials have expressed fiery anger at their being disparaged this way.
They now want Tsvangirai and one of his lieutenants arrested. And we have a new national crisis stemming from the meaning of “noted”!
What we are witnessing is an orgy of hyper-partisanship.
The consistency of irrationality is frightening. It is unhealthy and dangerous to our democracy.
The sad reality is that there is no end in sight to the quest for conflict and both corners more often than not look every bit the itinerant hypocrites.
One casualty of this puerile sniping is voters’ confidence in the political system. Political leaders are engrossed in power.
They have ceased to care about development. Recently I attended a Zanu PF rally in Mashonaland East where poor rural folk, including the ill and the elderly, spent hours in cold, drizzly weather being subjected to threats of Armageddon proportions if they failed to toe the line.
No one spoke of the need to repair infrastructure, avoid deforestation and how to improve market gardening. It was all about enemies of the State and the need to “deal with them”.
Many left the meeting wondering in whispers if these political brutes had their priorities right. The common refrain from the poor villagers was: do our political representatives realise the enormous challenges facing the village? They can’t speak out lest they are singled out as “enemies”.
Political leaders at the moment are so engrossed with grabbing the ultimate political prize that they have become blind to more fundamental issues.
The preoccupation is lashing out as much as it takes.
Beside being vociferous, loud and full of blather, they have time and time again shown their real colours by intentionally stoking the partisan flames that are slowly engulfing the already charged political atmosphere.
These are fanatics who don’t know when to hold back their venom.
Yet, they claim to be doing Zimbabwe a great public service. My foot!
We ought to tell these blabbermouths to tone down the rhetoric of jingoism for the supreme interest of the country.