The head of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, often criticized for failing to take action when political violence breaks out, has warned political parties to refrain from violence ahead of a constitutional referendum and elections next year, vowing a tough response.
Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri’s remarks to a police conference came after similar calls for tolerance and peace by the leaders of the three governing parties - President Mugabe for ZANU-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube for the two Movement for Democratic Change wings.
Chihuri, a staunch ZANU-PF partisan, was quoted in the state media on Monday as saying police will "descend hard on all perpetrators of violence, or those bent on fomenting dissensions and stirring up disorder in the country.”
Spokesman Nhlanhla Dube of the Welshman Ncube MDC formation said Chihuri's move to stem mounting political violence was welcome. "We would like to commend Chihuri for finally speaking peace," Dube said. "However, we have a word of caution that talk is always cheap [and] the taste of the pudding is in the eating."
Thabitha Khumalo, deputy spokesperson of the Tsvangirai MDC formation, also said she was cautiously optimistic at the police commissioner’s statements on violence.
Both formations of the MDC have accused the Zimbabwe Republic Police of favoring President Mugabe's long-ruling ZANU-PF party.
But ZANU-PF Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that Chihuri’s statement shows that the police are nonpartisan.
"We have always declared that the police commissioner or the police in general do not have selective tendencies of arresting perpetrators of violence, be they ZANU-PF or MDC," Gumbo said.
But political commentator Nkululeko Sibanda of Huddersfield University in Britain said he was not convinced Chihuri’s sincerely intends to crack down on political violence.