Chitungwiza violence: Violence begets violence

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Guest column: Learnmore Zuze

THE spate of violence that swept across Chitungwiza over the weekend is living testament that the so-called reforms that the international community has called for time and again are still a long way to come.

From the Robert Mugabe- Morgan Tsvangirayi era, it is something that we should all have mastered by now that violence and high-pressure methods trigger the same in people. Chitungwiza witnessed spirited attacks on civilians by the police. Reportedly, 13 people were arrested who had visited legislator Job Sikhala’s home to ‘defend’ him from the planned Zanu PF demonstration by youths.

It was reported that Zanu PF youths allegedly intended to send a message to the MDC leadership seen as purveyors of the sanctions that have hit the country. The homes of Tendai Biti, Sikhala and Nelson Chamisa were the intended targets by the ruling party youths demonstrations. They had even vowed to use toilets and blankets at these homes.

Now, what is worrisome is the conduct of the police in the wake of the clashes between the parties. Police reportedly went on a rampage hunting suspected MDC persons and hounding them out of their homes and wantonly assaulting them.

It raises real ethical issues on the part of the police as one would have expected them to have, in the first place, nipped the move by Zanu PF youths seeing as it were that it had the potential of fomenting violence. This precedent was set at a time the MDC, sought to hold massive demonstrations against the government.

The police were unequivocal that the demonstrations would be a potential source of violence hence the incessant bans that have dogged the main opposition’s attempt to protest in public.

It is curious how it would be possible for youths of an opposing party to go and invade the homes of their opponents in a constitutional democracy.

Zanu PF youths did not make a secret of their intentions. The police were expected to have noticed right away how the intended demonstrations carried the hallmarks of a potentially explosive situation. Logically, things should never have got to the point they got to; an alert police would have nipped things in the bud.

Contrary to all logic the intended demonstrations by the Zanu PF youths were unrestrained. It was only natural for the targeted MDC leaders to also move to protect their homes, hence the presence of party youths at Sikhala’s home.

Faced with potential impending menace, anyone could have done the same.

Either way, the law enforcers should have seen trouble coming and stopped it in its tracks. The main issue is that conditions that clearly pointed to trouble were left to grow only to try and take remedial action when things had gone awry.

It would have been acceptable if the corrective action had targeted both groups, but it was the MDC which was at the receiving end in Chitungwiza. Also, a number of innocent people were also brutalised by police.

Violence always gives birth to violence. Speaking at a rally, Mugabe once said: “I don’t say to party supporters here, just watch as the MDC hooligans attack you. You have the right to repel violence.” This is a simple truth. There was no way the MDC youths were going to sit idle expecting individuals from an opposing party to storm their homes and cause chaos.

It was totally unnecessary that nursing mothers and children would be subjected to tear smoke for something that the police would have addressed in the first place.

The police conduct in this case does not, at all, inspire confidence in the international community. The police came across as a partisan force in directing violence against one party in a case where the other party triggered the violence. The 13 arrests are living proof that Zimbabwean democracy will remain nascent as it has always been.

The citizenry must be free; it must fully express its freedom of association. Democracy cannot thrive where it is criminalised to belong to an opposing party. The resultant damage suffered by innocent motorists whose vehicles were torched was totally uncalled for if the law enforcement agents had acted with impartiality. It was imperative to scrutinise the Zanu PF youths’ actions and not the reactions of MDC youths.

After all has been said and done, let it be understood that violence or the so-called sanctions demonstrations never yielded anything positive since the era Zimbabwe was hit by sanctions.

It is only through real political reforms that sanctions will melt away without effort.

It is ironic that the action resorted to in trying to end the sanctions is actually cementing the existence of sanctions. Whoever brought the idea that led to the violence over the weekend must simply appreciate that violence begets more violence. If you saw a wind you will reap a whirlwind.

 Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer and writes in his own capacity