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Zimbabwe's Ruling Partners Moot Joint Peace Rallies Amid Skepticism

  • Ntungamili Nkomo

Skeptics say top level declarations will not mean much if the Zimbabwe Republic Police does not arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of political violence, especially those from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF

Political leaders in Zimbabwe's chronically unstable but somehow enduring power-sharing government have raised the possibility of staging a series of joint rallies next month in which to urge non-violence and tolerance ahead of elections expected this year.

But skeptics say such top level declarations will not amount to anything if the Zimbabwe Republic Police does not arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of political violence, especially those from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

Mr. Mugabe will join hands with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the leader of the smaller MDC formation, Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, in an effort to diffuse tension ahead of a looming constitutional referendum and the national ballot.

The three leaders addressed such a joint rally in Harare last November during which they pleaded with supporters to shun violence and urged the police to respect the rule of law and enforce it without favoritism across the board.

Bickering among political parties could get in the way of the upcoming rallies as the Tsvangirai MDC wing appeared noncommittal to the overture while the Ncube formation threatened a boycott if Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara attends

Mutambara was ousted as leader of the MDC faction now led by Ncube, but with the support of Mr. Tsvangirai and President Mugabe in particular has maintained his position as unity government principal being a signatory of the Global Political Agreement.

ZANU-PF Womens League chief Oppah Muchinguri, co-chairperson for her party on the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (set up under the GPA to measure compliance with the power-sharing agreement) welcomed the initiative.

"I really appreciate the move by our three principals," Muchinguri said. "It demonstrates the seriousness that they attach to the issue of peace in Zimbabwe."

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora commented that his party needed to see some key issues addressed before committing itself.

But Secretary-General Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of the Ncube MDC formation said leaders will follow the same script they used in November.

"The principals agreed to go to all the provinces and address the provincial party leadership so we cascade the message not only from the national level but from the provincial level as well," Misihairambwi-Mushonga said.

Political commentator Nkululeko Sibanda of the University of Huddersfield in Britain said ZANU-PF cannot dispense with violence as it is the only electoral tool it has left.

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