There are ominous signs that Zimbabwe’s next general election in 2018 will again be violent following an escalation of inter-party political violence between Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
In an interview with Voice of America, MDC spokesman Obert Gutu said the developments are worrying. "We are seriously concerned by the spike in incidents of political violence. The next election is only coming in 2018 and there are increasing cases of violence, what happens as we get close to the election?.. People will be murdered."
The disturbing trend has forced the MDC secretary general Douglas Mwonzora to appeal to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the government body constitutionally mandated to investigate such incidents, to intervene.
About 17 members of the opposition MDC, including Highfields East Member of Parliament Eric Murai, are expected in court Tuesday to face charges of disorderly conduct following violent clashes in Harare South on Sunday between MDC supporters and the police allegedly backed by Zanu-PF supporters.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant commissioner Charity Charamba says the MDC application to hold a rally was turned down because of clashes that took place last week. But she charged the MDC had defied the police order.
The daily Newsday newspaper quotes Charamba as saying, “They applied to hold a meeting. The application was turned down because of clashes that took place last week. They proceeded to gather about 2,000 supporters. They are charged under section 37 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, which prohibits gatherings for the purpose of inciting violence and disturbing peace,”
But Gutu said that the latest arrests are a cause for serious concern as the police deliberately delayed in giving them a response to their request to hold a rally and denied them at the last minute. "It's very difficult for us to communicate with our supporters to tell them that the rally's off because as you know we have no access to the public media.
"So people who had gathered on Sunday morning, they were then set upon by the police using tear gas canisters, dispersing them [and] beating us."
Last week there were also violent clashes in the same constituency. Hundreds of Zanu-PF and MDC supporters violently clashed, leaving 13 people hospitalized and two remain critical.
For at least six hours since 9am, rival camps fought each other with stones, sticks, bricks, bows and arrows, and various other objects.
In Mashonaland West province where Tsvangirai was meeting his party supporters, there were also constant clashes with Zanu-PF supporters allegedly heckling him.
HISTORY OF ELECTORAL VIOLENCE
Zimbabwe’s elections for years have always been characterized by alleged political violence. State security forces have allegedly committed acts of violence against thousands of civilians, targeting primarily political opponents and aid workers.
Human rights violations have included imprisonment, enforced disappearance, murder, torture, and rape.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in its Quarterly Political and Human Rights Violations report says Zimbabwe faces major challenges such as progress towards reconciliation and healing, sustained economic recovery and good governance.
“The government is still to operationalize the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), after interviews for the NPRC Commissioners were held in March 2014. The NPRC remains the only commission to be institute.”
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko is in charge of the organ, whose lifespan is 10 years after the adoption of the new constitution in March 2013. Two years on, the organ is yet to be operationalized and Mr. Mphoko is yet to comment on the delay in bringing into life the constitutional organ.