Political violence stalks Zimbabwe ahead of 2023 Elections

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By Dr Mathew Nyashanu

The political violence that rocked Murehwa last week perpetrated by Zanu PF supporters has left no doubt that President Emmerson Mnangagwa lacks the political will and sincerity to change the political environment ahead of the 2023 elections. The chilling videos which appear to show Zanu PF youths beating up elderly people for being associated with, or supporting the opposition Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC), were shared on social media and inevitably discussed in the House of Lords last week in the UK.

The violence comes at a time when the Zimbabwe government is clamouring for the removal of sanctions, arguing that it has established a new political dispensation. The wave of campaigning against sanctions even roped in the embattled South African president Cyril Ramaphosa who challenged the western world to remove the sanctions.

All things being equal it would have been prudent for President Ramaphosa to have challenged the Zimbabwean government on the violence that rocked Murehwa last week, but this has not happened. One wonders on whose side are the African governments when citizens in an African country are being persecuted by their own government. Of course, we know that many leaders in Africa stand for their counterparts ahead of the nations they lead.

The violence witnessed in Murehwa is not new in Zimbabwe especially when elections are drawing close. The Zimbabwe government needs to learn from Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and Kenya on how to foster democracy and respect citizens. Some of the aforesaid countries might have been involved in political violence at some stage but they have managed to reflect and grow beyond violence in times of elections.

What seems worrying with Zanu PF is that they don’t learn from their past mistakes; instead, they make the situation worse by increasing the intensity of violence in every election.

One would wonder what drives political violence in Zimbabwe. The answer is simple; Zanu PF knows that the institutions of democracy built around regional and continental organisations in Africa like SADC and the African Union (AU) are weak and bear no punitive measures to align members who go off the rails. No wonder why Zanu PF throws tantrums when called out and punished for poor governance and violence by the Western world and United States of America (USA).

SADC and the AU have been known to endorse what the leaders of pariah states like Zimbabwe demand instead of what the citizens are demanding. The softly-softly approach by African regional organisations towards each other is reciprocal and is meant to keep each other in power as long as they desire without any criticism.

SADC and the AU have now been turned into dictators clubs; the organisations have lost their mandate and have achieved nothing since their inception except the protection they have offered to dictators in Africa to make them to thrive. Through SADC and the AU, many citizens have suffered under dictators because the organisations believe that the only threats African citizens can get come from the former colonizers.

It is this lack of sincerity and obligation that has kept dictatorship and violence thriving in Zimbabwe. Such hypocrisy has not only been limited to reginal and continental organisations but is also present in neighbouring countries. For instance, South Africa is prepared to deport Zimbabweans and choose not to tackle or talk about the underlying political causes that have led to many Zimbabweans coming into South Africa.

President Ramaphosa has an obligation as a neighbour to discuss candidly with Zanu PF to stop violence and create a tolerant political environment that can foster good governance and growth of the economy. Only then will South Africa not have any problem with Zimbabweans coming into the country.

It is worrying how liberation parties like the African National Congress (ANC) and the likes of Zanu PF are so tolerant to colonial behaviour. Emerging from apartheid in 1994, one would have thought that the ANC is committed to social justice and freedom of African citizens but its present actions towards violence and poor governance in Zimbabwe leave a lot be desired.

It is sad that the ugly political environment created by Zanu PF has also tainted the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) which has been seen to be working in cohort with the Zanu PF perpetrators of violence. The police in Zimbabwe have been reduced to a private bandit gang taking orders from the Zanu PF warlords.

It is still a mystery that only one person was arrested for the violence in Murehwa which has been widely discussed and condemned by all progressive forces across the world. The fact that most of the suspects are still with the citizens in the communities is a clear travesty of justice.

If the ZRP was professional and committed to defending the people, the perpetrators of violence would have been arrested. A new political dispensation in Zimbabwe will need to invest in real training for the police to make sure that they are aware of their obligations to protect citizens from rogue political outfits like Zanu PF. The compromised and captured Zimbabwe police has even become dangerous to citizens as it is being used by a political party to preside over violence.

Again, like what I have said before on this platform I will say it again that Zanu PF has no one to blame when they are being rejected by the world; it is now the time for them to prove that they are not as rogue as their critics label them. This can only happen if they stop violence and allow all political parties to fully participate in voting without fear of violence fraudulent election.

It is gullible for Zanu PF to suspect that Zimbabwean citizens have a hand in the sanctions punitive measures they receive from the West and the USA.  The writings are on the wall and none other than Zanu PF should be blamed for the so-called sanctions because they are the ones driving the ship.

Opposition political parties and pressure groups in Zimbabwe need to take the evidence of all these violent incidences to SADC and the AU. They need to demand that Zimbabwe be put on the SADC and the AU agenda to discuss conditions for the 2023 elections.

There is need for a concerted effort by all progressive forces in Zimbabwe to engage and take Zanu PF to a brokered and guaranteed agreement for a free and fair election. Letting Zanu PF do as they please will only save to bring back misery to the citizens soon after elections.

Dr Mathew Nyashanu is a Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Admissions tutor for the MA in Public Health. He is a Zimbabwean academic based in the institute of Health & Allied Professions at Nottingham Trent University. He is a social scientist and public health specialist who has contributed widely to the strengthening of health systems in many low- and middle-income countries. The writings are purely his views and do not represent Nottingham Trent University. Dr Mathew Nyashanu can be contacted on the following email: