Fears of violence ahead of polls mount

By Helen Kadirire

With this year’s harmonised elections on the horizon, political and social analysts are fearful that violence may once again erupt as we move towards election day.

Zanu-PF Youth League members fight at the party’s offices at Davies Hall in Bulawayo
Zanu-PF Youth League members fight at the party’s offices at Davies Hall in Bulawayo

They believe the current Zanu PF government has been militarised and that the military will not allow the opposition to govern if it wins the elections.

They are also fearful that war veterans who are known for spearheading past violent campaigns for the ruling party, hence recently rewarded with lucrative positions in Zanu PF and government will fight to the death and protect their newly found power.

Their remarks come as eight members of the Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) were arrested last Sunday and later released with no charge after they protested against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent scheduled address at a church event in Bulawayo.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights chairperson Rose Hanzi said currently there seems to be a blatant disregard for the Constitution were provisions are not being adhered to.

She said provisions which State who has arresting powers and what they are mandated to do are being disregarded.

“When there are other institutions getting involved in arrests, the separation of duties becomes problematic. The Constitution is clear on who should be doing what and that needs to be respected.”

Hanzi said what happened with the Mthwakazi case should set precedence were the judiciary is allowed to execute its duties without interference.

“The judiciary should be allowed to guard, control and provide checks and balances on the legislature and executive,” Hanzi said.

She added that while it was too early to tell whether the human rights violations in the country were rising, the rights group would continue monitoring.

Brother to missing activist Itai Dzamara, Patson, has called on Mnangagwa to also disclose the whereabouts of his sibling.

Patson claims he has written countless times to Mnangagwa, first in his former capacity as Justice minister and as the new leader but to no avail.

Human Rights Watch’s Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga told the Daily News on Sunday that with the military now in charge there might be rise in torture, beatings and illegal detentions as the country draws towards elections. Mavhinga said despite former president Robert Mugabe resigning, he left behind a tattered legacy littered with human rights abuses and the authoritarian system he built over the years remains intact.

“Mnangagwa’s government must show that civilians are in charge, and undertake to respect constitutional rights, repeal repressive laws, and ensure accountability for serious past abuses. So far, nothing is happening to stop or prevent abuses.

“The false assumption that Zimbabwe can achieve sustainable economic development without respect for human rights and the rule of law must be rejected absolutely. Zimbabweans need and deserve both economic development and political freedoms together at the same time.

“The military takeover, which ended Mugabe’s 37-year authoritarian rule, raises concerns for the country’s future as the military itself has been deeply implicated in human rights violations against civilians over the years.

“Mugabe actively encouraged the military to be partisan to help him maintain his grip on his party and government. Just like Mugabe before him, Mnangagwa, who has replaced him as president with the backing of the military, is not likely to be independent of the military,” Mavhinga said.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said despite Mugabe leaving nothing changed regarding human rights violations in terms of laws, institutions, safeguards and system.

Saungweme said the system and actors of the human rights violations of 2008 are still around and doing the same.

“It was and is still therefore naive to expect change in the area of human rights when nothing but the figurehead changed. In 2008 it is the same system and actors that violated rights.

“People got too excitable when they equated Mugabe’s ouster with change in terms of rights abuses. Look at all sad chapters in our history where gross rights violations were done from Gukurahundi to the 2000 violent farm invasions and 2008 electoral violence.”

“It is the same characters — Zanu PF youth, war vets, police and military — suspected in rights violations. These have gone nowhere. So expect no meaningful change to the positive. It is even worse with a regime that got power by coup. They won’t let it slip to the opposition on the stroke of a pen.

“Even Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is on record saying military won’t salute a ‘sell-out’. The suspected torture of Chombo and the Mthwakazi activists is actually meant to instil fear in all ahead of 2018 polls,” he said.

Saungweme said Zimbabweans have suffered too much that they were willing to forego their rights as long they managed to withdraw cash at the ATM.

“For now attention to rights violations will be ignored by many in exchange of economic improvements. But current scholarship on sustainable economic development puts rights and ethics as key pieces to lasting economic recovery and development.

“So it will be short sighted for the regime to think they can get away with cosmetic economic reforms at the expense of respect to human rights,” he said.

He added that Mnangagwa may be taking from the book of Chinese revolutionary political leader Deng Xiaoping’s model were human rights suffered at the expense of economic recovery and progress.

Deng who led China from 1978 to 1989 after the death of Mao Zedong was responsible for transforming China’s economy through drastic reforms and opening up global markets, but ignoring the fundamental rights of the people.  DailyNews