Editor's memo: The scourge of political violence

Polling station

Prospects of a free and fair election are fading by the day, yet Zimbabwe’s very future depends upon whatever happens between now and the day when the poll results will be announced. Free and fair elections are premised on the integrity of all electoral processes that include a scientifically done delimitation process, an unbiased electoral supervisory board, a ruling party that’s willing to face fair competition and an opposition party that is not paranoid; but most importantly, the absence of political violence.

The delimitation process has been chaotic. Rarely has this process in the past been denigrated by both the ruling party and the opposition. 

Either the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been totally remiss in its application of the formulae that should be followed in executing this important process or there has been a Fifth Column interfering in the process for its own devilish ends. The nation is aware of the factionalism that has always bedevilled the ruling Zanu PF party.

This factionalism is something that cannot be wished away by both its perpetrators and those affected by it. Those it affects are mainly the electorate itself that will vote without informed choices and the country at large that will continue to bear its international pariah status.

A divided political party is a surefire recipe for violence.

Here we are taking this as a universal truth that will affect both the ruling party and the opposition. We know for sure that intraparty fighting has already begun across the political divide and will heighten as political parties approach primary elections.

Intraparty fighting might not have the same devastating effect on the integrity of the electoral process as interparty fighting but it too has to be avoided at all costs.  Interparty fighting is what’s generally defined as political violence.

A few weeks ago it manifested itself in Murewa where elderly people were severely assaulted when they gathered, as is their right, to support a political party of their choice. Although the police reported that some of the culprits had been apprehended, they still haven’t appeared in court to have charges preferred against them. Now this is curious and debunks the loud denials by ruling party apparatchiks that their party was responsible for the violence.

If those arrested by the police had belonged to another party we would have seen that justice would have been applied swiftly.

Mid-last year a man was arrested by the police for the callous murder of a political activist in Nyatsime, Chitungwiza.

He still hasn’t appeared in court as far as the public is aware.

There seems to be selective application of the law.  Ruling party activists can gather when and wherever they want but opposition members can’t do the same without the police descending upon them like a ton of bricks.

This is what happened over the weekend in Budiriro where 25 people including parliamentarians were raided by riot police and have been incarcerated and brought before the courts for simply gathering for a private party meeting at the private home of one of their own.

Many other incidents have shown this blatant selective application of the law which has made Zimbabwe the world’s laughing stock. Most worryingly, this selective application of the law encourages political violence as perpetrators feel that they are above the law and begin to act with impunity.

President Mnangagwa, since he took office nearly five years ago, has gone on re-engagement mission and most of those he seeks to re-engage have said they would only warm up to his overtures if this year’s elections are reasonably free and fair.

All his efforts are already coming to nought.

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