LATE in October last year when Zanu PF was burning from strife generated by the power struggles fomented by its internal vote, we warned that political violence was taking root in the country and could easily escalate as we head towards general elections.
Our fears have since been vindicated by the latest developments in the political trenches where a precious life was lost and several people injured recently when Zanu PF supporters stormed a Citizens Coalition for Change campaign rally in Kwekwe.
What is of concern is the sharp rise in cases of violence in all areas where by-elections are due.
It is also disheartening that despite escalating incidents of violence, the main political leaders continue to turn a blind eye to the scourge which could easily degenerate into civil strife if left to fester.
We all understand the importance of these by-elections as they serve as a dry run for all major parties ahead of next year’s general elections. But it’s up to politicians, particularly the governing party to discard this culture of violence and ensure a peaceful environment prevails in the run-up to the election.
It is not difficult to understand why violence persists in Zimbabwean politics, especially when Zanu PF feels its political hegemony is being threatened by Nelson Chamisa’s CCC.
Here is what Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, a former military commander, said at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s home-coming rally in Kwekwe recently: “I have heard others here saying down with triple C, let me assure you that there is nothing it can achieve, you see how we crush lice with a stone.
“You put it on a flat stone and then flatten it to the extent that even flies will not make a meal out of it.”
While he was speaking, the police were busy teargassing opposition CCC supporters in Gokwe to stop Chamisa from holding a campaign rally at the centre.
It is the height of irresponsibility for a government leader to describe people, even if they are rivals, as lice. Mnangagwa failed to rebuke his colleague despite the danger such hate speech posed to the lives of people he is supposed to be leading.
That is comparable to former Rwanda politician, Leon Mugesera, who described Tutsis as “cockroaches” and called for their extermination. His incendiary speech against the Tutsi minority in 1994 led to 800 000 people being killed in a genocide.
Overall, It is incumbent upon Mnangagwa and Chamisa to rein in their supporters and avoid a bloodbath. Zimbabweans are tired of disputed elections, thus Mnangagwa and Chamisa owe it to the nation to ensure that elections are conducted in a peaceful manner.
After the violence that has become synonymous with elections in Zimbabwe and the lessons learnt from the experience over the years, we expect elections to be conducted in a violence-free environment because we have come of age.
We expect mature leadership from all those leading our political parties and this starts and ends with both Mnangagwa and Chamisa.