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  • Published on: 21st September 2019
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PaThe Problem Statement

This research serves to explore assertion that the inculcation of values based on the use of political violence for electoral advantage and for the accumulation of power is dangerous [Samukange 2016]. This practice has created discord, hatred and disharmony among communities [Hope Deferred 2010] . This part of the research will trace the history of political violence in Zimbabwe.

For the purpose of this research, political violence will be contextualised to refer to election motivated violence perpetrated against supporters of the opposition parties mainly by the ruling party ZANU PF. It is from this background that the problem which this research intends to address was formulated. Reference here will be mainly limited to the political violence around the period from 2000-2013. This is the period when political, economic and social crisis of this country reached its peak.  Without making reference to the Gukurahundi era of 1982-1987, the period under discussion in this research has been associated with the most intense political violence since the attainment of independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe has a long tradition of political violence which dates back to the pre-colonial times i.e. the violent wars against the Imperialists, the Shona-Ndebele skirmishes, black resistance to white regime’s oppression around the 1960s and the violence associated with the war of liberation(). The country’s politics is embedded in a tradition and practice of violence that began more than half a century ago [Lebas 2016] The consequences of this state of affairs is a society traumatized by fear , withdrawal and collective depression based on past memories of violence, intimidation and harassment. Kaulem [2004] stated that violence breeds violence and victims of violence become violent themselves.

In the Zimbabwean experience, while violence was a decisive instrument in the attainment of independence, it was also a major decisive force afterwards. It has remained a cancer that corrodes the country’s political culture and block its democratic advance.[Musanga 2016], [Lebas 2006]

 Elections related violence has also become a common feature in Zimbabwe especially after the emergence of the Movement for Democratic Change in September 1999 and has characterised the country’s the country’s elections since 1980[]. Elections have been held on regular basis since independence in 1980. Yet these have not been free and fair and the state has routinely used violence to oppress opposition groups and their supporters [Pasquale and Benjamin 2016].  The political landscape of Zimbabwe ZANU PF has been largely shaped by Zimbabwe National Union Patriotic Front’s political leadership and ideological hegemony since 1980 [Musanga].This party held power in Zimbabwe for almost three decades. Initially hailed as the force for emancipation, the party now clings to office through violent repression [Masunungure 2008]

There is strong evidence that indirect exposure to state repression leads citizens to report higher trust into the state institutions, the president, the ruling party, parliament, local officials and the police [Pasquale and Benjamin 2016]. Preference falsification mechanism demonstrates that, citizens report higher support for government in response to growing fear for their personal security [Pasquale and Benjamin 2016]. Taurus and Taylor [2011] have revealed that election violence on the African continent has become common and is generally perpetrated by the incumbent regime and more frequently prior to elections than after wards. The Zimbabwean situation has proved otherwise and this is the reason why this research is being carried out mainly to promote harmonious living before, during and after elections.

A lot of Zimbabweans were exposed to political violence during the 2000, 2005 and the 2008 presidential election [Musanga 2016]. Alexander [2006] noted that partisan violence has become the crucial turning point in Zimbabwean history. A person is perceived politically correct only if s/he belongs to Zanu Pf. [Hope Deferred] , [Musanga 2016].

The main protagonists in violence were ZANU PF and the MDC. Violence however was heavily skewed in favour of ZANU PF since it was the ruling party and had access to monopolising state security forces such as the police, army and the secret intelligence [Hope Deferred 2010], [Musanga  2016]. The country presents partly a story of strategic interaction, as each party responded to the tactics used by the other.[] These parties in rural areas the ZANU PF and MDC supporters routinely clashed in violent scuffles.[]  

In Zimbabwe, violence has been institutionalised to build an authoritarian state that is contemptuous of civilian rights including their expression of their preference through the vote. Suttner [2010] once said:

“Violence is usually unjustified. It is a breach of peace, or potential peace in our case, which is a condition for a society based on mutual respect. Violence tends to dehumanize the other, especially in political violence where the victim is defined as the enemy…..It is now undesirable to emphasise heroic acts of war where these feed into heroic actions.”

This sage and sober assessment of violence as an instrument of dehumanizing is sadly absent in the Zimbabwean discourse on the liberation struggle and in post independent politics. It is not uncommon for ZANU PF leadership to praise the virtue of violence and its heritage of ‘degrees in violence’.

According to Ranger [2004] ZANU PF bases its strong hatred on MDC because of ‘Patriotic History’- the party is blamed for its perceived alliance with the Euro-American block and for engineering the economic sanctions on Zimbabwe with the intention of instituting regime change.

Political violence has always been a tool used by ZANU PF []. Shortly before the  1985 general elections, the party through its state agents carried out an arms search in Bulawayo’ s township suburbs which the ZAPU leaders Joshua Nkomo dismissed as ‘an election stint’ designed to demoralize his supporters and force them to vote for the ruling party in the forth- coming general elections. Thereafter there were reports of abductions of ZAPU officials by members of the ruling party [Zvobgo 2016]. This tactic to them had yielded some ‘positive’ results and found it very difficult to part ways with political violence. After the abduction of his party members Nkomo went on to state that: ‘this is not some dark novel, a macabre piece of fiction. It is the life and politics in Zimbabwe today’.

Ranger [2004] stated that ZANU PF managed to divide the nation into ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘sell outs’. This idea of labelling someone as a sell-out invites and seeks to rationalise violence and promote rhetoric of intolerance which are the key factors in triggering post 2000 political violence. The effects of party polarization most severe for those living in rural areas, they experienced a lot of violence and intimidation and as a result, tens of thousands fled to cities [Lebas 2006]. In rural areas party affiliation was not chosen, it was imposed.

Political craft therefore operates quite differently in Zimbabwe than in other accounts of democratic transitions [] . Polarization, once in motion, can foster organizational changes within parties that perpetuate and intensify conflict [lebas 2006]. Violence is used by ZANU PF supporters as a way of instilling discipline in its opponents. I have always believed in the ugly side of violence after witnessing lots of it as a small boy. I grew up in an area where political violence was acute and it has even divided families and neighbours. I have been concertized by Lebas[2016]’s philosophy that violence is always not a good strategy.

The violence noted in the 2000, 2005, and 2008 general elections signified a ‘margin of terror’ which induced fear among the electorate, and tipped election outcomes in favour of the incumbent regime. The violence noted during the period under discussion was strategic rather than sporadic and relentless rather than fragmented. While this institutionalised violence succeeded in sowing widespread fear and trauma, it left a large residue of resentment, frustration and thirst for reprisal among the population [Samukange 2016]. If this situation goes unabated or unless sensitively handled, the sparks of injustice and the quest for revenge could create explosive conditions for future blast.

The issue of political violence regardless of the scale, has proved to be a worrying development no wonder why I have seen the essence of formulating possible intervention strategies which are aimed at promoting cohesion, harmony, political tolerance and the promotion of humanity among these communities which have been raved by political violence for years. The issue of political violence has gone down to affect even family members. There has been a frightening level of deterioration in family connections as a result of partisan politics [Musanga 2016]. It is at this level therefore that peace initiatives should be instituted to promote peace and harmony. Wider effects of violence are still unfolding in the Zimbabwe, fear, withdrawal, stress, depression and the spawning of mental disorders whose prevalence and depth still need to be comprehended [Samukange 2016].

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