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Violence in politics in Zimbabwe and ZANU PF’s role

Gukurahundi atrocities set the tone for state terrorism when ZANU PF deployed a wholly ethnic Shona composed 5th Brigade to murder, torture and terrorise civilians in Matabeleland. Since then, violence has become a signature of politics in the independent Zimbabwe; in the eyes of a reckless, morally bereft ZANU PF, violence is a viable political option, and a legitimate political tool to be called upon whenever peaceful constitutional means do not return results favourable to the party. It is no secret that violence in politics in Zimbabwe is ZANU PF’s creation and a direct result of the absence of effective systems for moderating activists’ conduct.

Justice will continue to elude Zimbabweans as long as ethnic Shona people maintain a sense of entitlement and fail to separate Shona creed from the state, and as long as the abuse of Ndebeles and marginalisation of Matabeleland are normalised and condoned in the Shona orientated mainstream politics in Zimbabwe, no one is safe from ZANU PF terrorism.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that those who aspire for real change to politics in Zimbabwe will need to review their approach and accept that a devotion to order than justice is an outrage. Extreme measures must be put on the table, take either of the following two actions: de-oxygenate ZANU PF or match its violence.

We will be brutally honest, tribalism is endemic to the Zimbabwean social and political space, and it is the reason ZANU PF exists and is being maintained. Watering down laws has made it easier for people to tolerate immorality in our politics and way of life. We will need to do more to be on guard against it. However, we must acknowledge at present tribalism is the scourge, the crowning immorality of the politics in the independent Zimbabwe.

Denunciation of tribalism is public duty especially those to whom privilege is extended. In an ideal world, this is a time for ethnic Shona people to take personal responsibility; tribalists among ethnic Shona people oxygenate ZANU PF and tribalism, if they withdraw their support line the party will struggle for legitimacy and its very existence threatened without major reforms.

But tribalism is a fight Matabeleland will have to take the lead on; we cannot rely on ethnic Shona people to lead the fight on tribalism because they have no reason to. Tribalism extends Shona privilege. Shona privilege is an absence of the consequences of tribalism; an absence of structural discrimination; an absence of your tribe being viewed as a problem.

The second option is that opposition need to be prepared to at least match current violence levels to demystify ZANU PF’s mythical concept of privilege and exclusive right to use of violence in the country. Advocating for violence may not be the point, let alone popular, but anyone who thinks arrogant ZANU PF people who have normalised executing violence, people who have tasted its benefits will voluntarily return to constitutionalism and respect election outcomes that depose them from power and access to aggression with impunity needs an emergency mental assessment.

We are not suggesting for a minute people should not participate in elections, doors must remain open to peaceful means, but order without justice is the crowning of ZANU PF and unacceptable, people must be prepared – any which way – to protect their vote. And we are adamant that for real change to happen in our politics, ZANU PF must be forced to return to constitutionalism, respect peaceful means, and some people will have to be prepared to lose their lives to save those of millions.

The chaotic political environment is both a source and a result of power for a tribal leaning ZANU PF regime, and quite understandable, the party remains unwilling to change a winning formula no matter how immoral it may be. It is from that perspective that we are doubtful that exclusively peaceful means including retreating remain viable options for the opposition. Genuine opponents of the regime must be prepared to take advantage of the same chaotic environment.

In a complex situation when confronted with new considerations in which ZANU PF learns that outcomes are no longer predictable and it cannot set the rules in this chaotic environment, it will start to engage seriously in constitutional measures meant to de-escalate the violence and promote law and order, and peace in our politics.

Tribalism and political violence are not the future for politics in Zimbabwe. We have learned that tribalism is being used by politicians and the elite to hold onto power not to empower the public; at the end of the day we are all casualties of the system. We need to elevate morality back to its rightful position of paramount importance in our socio-political space and thus eliminate growing selfishness, immorality that includes the exploitation of ethnic minorities by the majority tribe, and the poor by the political leadership and the elite.


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