Members of Zimbabwean civil society and the public on Monday expressed mixed reactions to President Robert Mugabe’s Independence Day speech Sunday calling for tolerance and for activists to abstain from electoral or other politically motivated violence.
Mr. Mugabe in a speech marking 30 years since the black majority shook off white colonial rule, condemned political violence calling it a blight on society.
Referring to a long-running dispute within the Anglican Church in Harare, Mr. Mugabe chastised church leaders struggling for control of church buildings and assets, saying such behavior was un-Christian. Former Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who has refused to relinquish control of Harare churches despite his resignation from the Anglican Church Province of Central Africa, is a strong supporter of President Mugabe.
The president also addressed domestic violence, urging men to stop abusing their wives and girlfriends.
But political analysts said Mr. Mugabe's nonviolence appeal should have been aimed at militant members of his own ZANU-PF party, especially the youth militia it controls, which has been accused of waging violence against the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, especially during the 2008 elections.
Programs manager Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an NGO umbrella group, said the president's appeal for nonviolence cannot be taken seriously as his party has been the source of most of the political violence experienced in the country.
But political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said he welcomes Mr. Mugabe’s denunciation of violence, though somewhat cautiously as Mr. Mugabe has issued calls for nonviolence in the past without visible effect.