Much as there have been pronouncements and counter pronouncements over the issue of elections in Zimbabwe, there is no longer any doubt the country is now in election mode and the signs — mostly ugly — are there for everyone to see.
What we witnessed at the weekend and during the past week is the typical Zimbabwean election atmosphere. Violence and more violence — accompanied by typical police behaviour at election time.
First, we had police barring lawful rallies by one of the major political parties in the country. The stoppage, in apparent spite of court orders, resulted in skirmishes between the police and political activists from the MDC-T party whom the police had barricaded out of rally venues in Lupane and Victoria Falls.
Later in the week, we had the capital city transformed into a war zone as, once again, the police clashed with the former opposition supporters, this time over pirated music. A complaint by a cheated musician turned into political violence overnight.
Zimbabwean politicians should understand and accept the fact that the people of this country are among the most peace-loving on the continent and that much as they may, in the beginning, be cowed by acts of violence and cast their votes out of fear, they are now over that stage.
A violent party in Zimbabwe will not win votes. 2008 gave ample evidence of how the people react to bullying politics. Zanu PF’s only chance of winning back votes is undergoing complete transformation – to shed its violence tag and to embrace peace.
Nurturing outfits such as Chipangano will only sink the party deeper into oblivion. Authorities may want to deny it, but it is well known, documented even, that our police force is partisan – in favour of the revolutionary Zanu PF party.
The Commissioner-General has made public his position – declaring open support for Zanu PF.
This is harmful to the party. The voting public is inclined to sympathise with the powerless and throw their vote with them to remove a system that openly abuses public institutions in support of politicians.
Zanu PF would do well to rein in their zealous militants such as the Mbare-based Chipangano fellows and allow police to do their job professionally.
The tone yesterday, of police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka sounded in the right direction. He said: “It’s not necessary and we find no reason why people should fight.
We implore our officers on site to exercise diligence to deal with culprits so that we mean what we say on zero tolerance to political violence.”
Well said, Mandipaka, and good public relations, but the message ought to come from higher up where orders are given. From the manner in which our police force acts it appears they have standing orders on how to deal with which political parties.
Police are expected to play a crucial role in ensuring the fairness of any election. But in Zimbabwe, during election time, people get paralysed by fear of a clearly partisan police force.
A police force that has sworn its allegiance to a certain party on account of its pre-independence endevours and regards other politicians as “irresponsible, destablising elements”, can hardly be relied upon to ensure fairness in an election.