Parliaments around the world, once in a while, experience fist-fights between members, but this is rare in Zimbabwe — although sometimes debates become very heated. In a multi-party system, members of different parties cannot be expected to agree on issues all the time.
But the near-fight witnessed in the House of Assembly on Wednesday between often-affable Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu PF) and Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC-T) is a worrying phenomenon which must be nipped in the bud, considering how most of the current crop of legislators came to be in the august House.
The brawl follows closely another one witnessed in Kwekwe recently between two Zanu PF MPs, Owen Ncube (MP for Gokwe-Kana) and Masango Matambanadzo (Kwekwe Central).
The past 14 years in Zimbabwe have been a crucible period of violence. Ever since the launch of the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999, politicians, especially of the Zanu PF persuasion, have seen violence as a legitimate tool to achieve a political end.
From 2000 to the present, Zimbabwe has been going through the most violent phase of its history, considering the country is not at war.
The violent land reform programme comes to mind as one of the darkest periods of our history.
The fact that all elections since the turn of millennium have been characterised by violence will remain forever a blot on our nationhood.
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A cursory look at the characters involved in the fights cited above will reveal their violent pasts.
Chinotimba is notorious for declaring himself the “Commander-in-Chief” of farm invasions and leading the violent land grab that cost dozens upon dozens of lives.
As leader of war veterans he also led in the electoral violence which became synonymous with the former fighters of the liberation war. Indeed, instead of the war veterans going down in history as the heroes of our liberation, most of them will go into the hall of infamy for the violence they meted out on innocent people who had chosen to oppose Zanu PF.
His adversary doesn’t have clean hands either as he has been fingered in a rape case.
Though he is innocent until proven guilty, the mere fact that he stands accused of sexual assault is damning enough and displays his propensity towards violence.
When a country has legitimated political violence it cannot be surprising that mostly the very violent will make it to Parliament. Most Zanu PF MPs have in one way or another been linked to political violence.
But how can the country do away with this culture of violence? It will take a long time to convince beneficiaries of violence that peace is a much better alternative.
How can they be taught that it is in fact possible to win elections without the use of violence?
In future it should be important that anyone who has in any way been linked to acts of violence not be allowed to stand in any electoral contest. Those with pending court cases should also not be allowed anywhere near Parliament.