THAT Zimbabwe has been exhibiting some conspicuous signs of dynamism in recent months is not in doubt after President Emmerson Mnangagwa received international delegations keen to invest in the country, following former President Robert Mugabe’s ouster last November.
Mnangagwa has been saying all the right things to fight corruption, create an enabling environment for business, engage the West, request to re-join the Commonwealth, and urging a free, fair and credible election to be held on July 30.
Regrettably, that progress risks being derailed by a spectre of violence that has proved to be the country’s Achilles Heel for nearly four decades.
Since Mnangagwa proclaimed the election date, there has been excessive excitement by political activists within the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition.
We have witnessed some of the most heinous political violence incidences including the sordid killing of a two year-old Professor Lumbe, whose father Rambai is former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s National Patriotic Party provincial executive and parliamentary candidate.
Accusations are that suspected Zanu PF activists have threatened Rambai since he ditched the party to join Mujuru’s opposition NPP.
In another case, a couple in Goromonzi West reportedly escaped death by a whisker after they were attacked for supporting National Patriotic Front’s Biata Nyamupinga.
The family was rescued by other villagers after they screamed for help. Violence incidences are reported on a daily basis and many of them point to suspected Zanu PF apparatchiks, whose DNA has been using violence to cow their opponents for decades.
During his time, Mugabe even boasted of having degrees in violence. While Mnangagwa has consistently called for a peaceful campaign and election, there is no doubt that many Zanu PF supporters have violence ingrained in them.
Clearly, Mnangagwa must be pragmatic and go a step further to ensure his party supporters do not spoil it for him. There is no doubt that this year the warning signs of a violent outcome are abundant.
It is unfortunate that both ruling party and opposition politicians are forming militias to protect themselves or intimidate others.
We believe that whether bloodshed can be avoided this year will depend on whether the loser of what polls show as a neck-and-neck race will be ready to concede defeat.
That in turn will require a quick and transparent vote count by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
It is time, international observer groups, African Union, SADC and others should press the government to hold a free, fair and credible vote and opposition parties must be prepared to abide by the result.
Zimbabweans from across the divide — both Zanu PF and the opposition — know from past experiences that the country has much to lose if its leaders fail to act responsibly.
The death of the two-year-old Professor should be a lesson for all that Zimbabwean politics should move away from being characterised by violence.
Is it not a fact that politicians come and go, but relationships stay forever?
Citizens must not be fooled by politicians to commit violence or cause the death of their neighbours just for power.
We must be able to live together in peace regardless of our divergent views.
Zimbabweans must embrace Mnangagwa’s call for peace to hold the elections in a peaceful environment.
Otherwise the sheen of progress that Zimbabwe showed off recently could be quickly wiped out.