HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsMugabe, Tsvangirai must behave like adults!

Mugabe, Tsvangirai must behave like adults!

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It is exactly 15 days to go to elections and once again I would like to applaud the people of Zimbabwe for having managed to maintain relative peace thus far.

Landscape with Tangai Chipangura

If left to themselves, I have no doubt that this non-violent environment will continue to prevail — an atmosphere where one sees supporters of different parties, clad in their party regalia, hug, eat and drink together at market places, bottle stores and other public places in townships — arguing and laughing over differences in their party policies.

We saw this happen in the March 2008 elections. The spirit appears the same so far — save for isolated incidents where born thugs who abhor peace, seek to spoil for fights in order to create an environment that allows them to steal, vandalise, loot or shed blood needlessly, just to satisfy their criminal nature.

What, however, threatens this tranquility is the verbal recklessness of the very political leaders that pretended to lead the nation in the “Peace begins with me; Peace begins with you” slogan, coined by the late Vice-President John Nkomo (Zanu PF), MP Sekai Holland (MDC-T) and Moses Mzila-Ndlovu (MDC) —leaders of the Organ for National Healing and Integration.

President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Professor Welshman Ncube, leaders of Zimbabwe’s main contesting parties in the coming elections, have, in the months before the proclamation of the election date, been preaching peace. But alas, these same three men now appear determined to stand in the way of a peaceful environment as July 31 beckons.

It is not in doubt that no physical harm will come to these men’s persons or to their wives and children. Their instigation of violence can only affect the rest of us whom, at the end of the day, they want to use to vote them into power.

They use foul language — vulgarities that may yield laughter and entertainment to their audiences at rallies, but which offend and anger supporters of their rivals, resulting in polarity and violent attacks among otherwise peaceful citizens.

Mugabe’s wife calls Tsvangirai an unlearned and frightfully ugly imbecile, and Tsvangirai in turn calls her an adulterer and marriage wrecker. Both statements do not win anybody any votes; but they certainly incite violence.

Why should responsible political leaders stoop so low as to behave like yester-year cattle herders fighting over little mounds of soil which they foolishly are made to believe are their mothers’ breasts?

Granted, in elections, generous allowance should be made for political rhetoric and all it implies — a pinch of irony, some sarcasm, and even provocative comment, but in a peaceful environment like what Zimbabwe enjoys at the moment, politicians must not unnecessarily and without benefit, ignite needless violence.

Yes, democracy gives freedom of speech and expression — bringing out all the dirt, especially during election campaign time — but for God’s sake, we must all exercise restraint and avoid bloodshed.

Is bloodshed the painful price we must pay for safeguarding electoral free expression above all other rights? The question must arise whether incitive political speeches must be censored or even criminalised, to protect the vulnerable. So much hate speech is being spewed in Zimbabwe today as election fever grips the country and, the amount of damage it threatens is cause of serious reconsideration.

Instead of engaging in childish verbal altercations, politicians should focus their energies on selling their political ideologies; their manifestos; so that people are able to make informed decisions on who to vote for. Verbal acrobatics on its own is a dead end. It will only excite immature or criminal minds that most likely have not registered to vote anyway.

What do Tsvangirai’s poke-marked cheeks or Mugabe’s age-wrecked ones have to do with good governance, peace or prosperity of this country? How does Mugabe or Tsvangirai’s private life affect the economy of Zimbabwe or our democracy?

Exchanging personal insults is as shameful, immature as it is petty. We do not expect national leaders like Mugabe, Tsvangirai or Ncube to behave like cantankerous little schoolboys when they should be espousing their party policies and showing their peaceful and people-oriented qualities.

Tsvangirai’s stern reprimand of his wayward party youth leaders is very plausible and Mugabe’s calls for peace at a rally at Nzvimbo growth point last week are also refreshing. What they need to do is to talk more peace at their rallies as we advance towards July 31 and to be magnanimous in accepting victory or defeat after the elections

The people of this country cherish their peace and of course democracy and good governance. They are sick and tired of this verbal harangue which they can definitely do without.

We want tangible improvement to our lives, bread on our tables and a future for our children — not all this literary wet noodles that we have been getting from power-hungry and greedy political animals!

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