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Opposition breeding an unacceptable culture of violence: Fighting for a rabbit in the forest

By Elijah Mangwengwende

Reflecting back into history, Zimbabwe is a nation accustomed to the use of violence as an acceptable way of resolving conflicts, it has been a culture associated with ZANU PF, a party well known for resorting to physical and emotional force in political disputes if ever one chose to question the order of the day, the very system which led to the mushrooming of opposition political parties, of note the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai take part in a Harare rally by the main opposition parties calling for free and fair elections next year
Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai take part in a Harare rally by the main opposition parties calling for free and fair elections next year

In 1999 MDC became a beacon of hope for many citizens including myself, as they preached a gospel of peace, tolerance, freedom of expression and association among other things.

That if one believes in a different discourse becomes a criminalized offence punishable by a thorough beating or threats was something we never envisaged going forward.

I, like many of my friends are failing to understand the new violent ways manifesting within the ranks of a once peaceful movement to the extent of threatening the peaceful existence at the top echelons of those leading us.

But why is it that the opposition have chosen sanctuary in the manacles of violence in dealing with opposing views as evidenced by recent barbaric attacks on well-respected and dignified MDC-T Vice President Hon Thokozani Khupe and other members of the top leadership. Is it that violence against fellow members has become an acceptable form of action in dealing with opposing discourses?

Many times we have found ourselves thrust at the deep end up grappling with the question of the gross effects of political violence in our society yet we pay little attention to it maybe for fear of losing favors from those at the top, but after the violent apprehension against three members of MDC-T top leaders, only a radical change of direction may bring a lasting solution to this culture of violence, the first step is to understand the root cause of the problem.

I seek to shy away from the conventional cry stance and symptomatic analyses where ZANU PF becomes a punch bag for clear violent criminal activities committed by opposition activists against fellow cadres, rather narratives by tackling the social construct that bred violence in the main blood artery of Zimbabwean body politic. In this process one is thrown into a deep thought state on whether we seek to moderate or decimate divergence in opinion. The latter seems to be either an intended or unintended reciprocal effect.

Opposition Alliance and MDC-T violence

That violence in political contestation of ideas is a preferred route which conventionalism has attributed as an import from colonial incursion or from ZANU PF is nothing but an abortion of truth and an attempt to scapegoat. ZANU PF never send anyone to beat Lovemore Moyo or Bhebhe. Neither did ZANU PF send people to beat up Elton Mangoma, but it is clear that a violent gang culture is breeding itself and the leadership is not taking action.

This does not spell immunity for ZANU PF but focus is preferred on the customization of violence which of late has claims scalps of opposition members at the hands of opposition functionaries. The question of what is democracy comes to mind. What is it we mean by democratic movement given the two diametrically opposed actions of democracy and violence?

The political murders of Tichaona Chiminya, Trymore Midzi, Talent Mabika and many others is certainly a political anathema deeply entrenched in every opposition activist which must act as a deterrent to all of us, is it not a great betrayal of all those who lost their lives fighting for democracy and non-violent existence? Unfortunately MDC and other opposition parties inherited this culture of violence joining ZANU PF, a well know terrorist organization.

Am I the only one who have noticed that violence is going through an evolution and is becoming militaristic and seems to be founding a haven within the youth ranks and other senior members in opposition? The military effigies being won by MDC-T youth’s leadership is a clear indication of combat approach which is unacceptable within a democratic movement, we have green bombers in ZANU PF and we now have black bombers within MDC as shown by black attires of the so called party vanguards. Since when did MDC have a military youth wing? We must say no to animal farm syndrome. We must all say No to violence in any form without any fear or favor.

The reason why we are fighting ZANU PF is because of President Mugabe’s violent tendencies, he has been ruthless towards his opponents and publicly boasts of degrees in violence. He once classified the late VP Joshua Nkomo and ZAPU as a snake whose head had to be crushed. Are we heading towards the same route? If so why then are we wasting time fighting a bad system yet we are doing exactly the same, we can’t hide it anymore as evidence is in public domain.

Majority of Zimbabweans were born in violence, grew up in violence, governed by violence and has known violence as the only instrument of social order. We should thrive to undo the violent mentality in society as well as demilitarization. We want a movement where every person is free to express him/herself without fear and contestation of ideas should be the backbone of resolving any conflicts.

For example if Hon Khupe express different views about the coalition, those views must be respected and defeated through debating not bashing or denigrate her because it is within her democratic right to oppose what she doesn’t believe in, as a mother, she deserves our respect because politics is voluntary not permanent means of survival. Expulsion is the  only solution for anyone using violence regardless of rank, gender or color.

The onus is on Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC-T and all parties to develop programs that will target the elimination of violence as a culture in society while inevitably the disarmament of youth brigades and war veterans , reintegrating them in society as productive citizens, such is the mammoth task that lies ahead for national liberation and nation building.

Elijah Mangwengwende is an MDC-T activist and a disciple of non-violence and writes in his personal capacity