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Zimbabwe Political Class Talks About Violence - But are Grass Roots Listening?


Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri has come under fire for the failure of his Zimbabwe Republic Police to step in to stop outbreaks of politically inspired violence and to arrest those responsible

Senior officials of Zimbabwe’s three governing parties meeting in a crisis session Friday heard President Robert and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai condemn political violence and urge members of their parties to be tolerant, respectful, and to maintain the peace despite their differences - but many doubted the message would have an impact.

President Mugabe urged all political parties in the country to be tolerant and work towards peace. “We have committed heart and soul that we ensure that our country is without violence. We want to live in a peaceful country,” Mugabe said

In a thinly veiled attack on President Mugabe's former ruling party, Mr Tsvangirai said political leaders must stop coercing people to vote for them. "The men and women in this room must all ask themselves whether they are not the perpetrators of the violence that has pervaded the country; indeed whether we are not the ones that instruct our cells and our branches to beat up people and force them to support our parties, to buy our cards and to attend our rallies and meetings."

Some participants and observers hailed the meeting as historic while others dismissed it as meaningless political grandstanding that was unlikely to change the behavior of militant supporters who see violence as just another political tool.

Legislator Piniel Denga of Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change formation represents the Harare suburb of Mbare which has seen much violence in the past year. Though Mbare is a stronghold for Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation, it has also become a base for the so-called Chipangano Youth gang implicated in much urban violence.

Denga told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that Friday's meeting would not put an end to the violence unless there is major reform of the police and other security agencies.

Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri has come under fire for the failure of his Zimbabwe Republic Police to step in to stop outbreaks of politically inspired violence and to arrest those responsible. But Chihuri, a Mugabe loyalist who has often exhibited disrespect for Prime Minister Tsvangirai, has not been held accountable.

Mr. Tsvangirai has accused Indigenization and Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere of having a hand in an outbreak of violence last Sunday in the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza, where ZANU-PF supporters stoned MCC members attending a rally.

Kasukuwere told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that he has demanded an audience with Mr. Tsvangirai to clear his name. As youth minister, Kasukuwere was closely associated with the ZANU-PF youth militia implicated in deadly 2008 election violence.

Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee Chairwoman Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushunga called the inter-party conference on violence historic – but expressed doubt whether it will have much impact on political violence at the grass roots.

Political consultant Gladys Hlatshwayo, a former legislator, said politicians must now walk the talk, not only talk the talk about ending political violence

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