- Last Updated on 07 June 2012
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The stoning to death of MDC-T Ward Chairperson Cephas Magura by a marauding group of ZANU PF activists at a MDC rally (sanctioned by the police) at Chimukoko Business Centre in Mudzi on 26 May 2012, should not be treated as an isolated event. It has to be seen as another node in a continuum of well-documented political violence that has become emblematic of the political culture in Zimbabwe, especially as practiced by ZANU PF. Magura's gruesome murder, is one of many such political killings that we have seen over the course of the last 4 years, joining Tonderai Ndira, Beta Chokururama and many others who were murdered in cold blood for political reasons. As unfortunate as it may be, the stoning to death of Magura and other such killings seem to unfortunately be part and parcel of the political DNA of Zimbabwean politics. A situation, which, if not righted, is a sure sign for doom as the country gears up for possibly two competitive public political processes, in the form of the referendum and general election within the next 12 months.
Death in any situation is a disturbing prospect, but murder for purposes of political gain is disquieting, especially when nothing is then done about it. What is even more disquieting is the tendency by Zimbabweans to sit idly by and watch as situations spirals out of control. The guiltiest party, in this exercise of inaction, is largely the police and prosecution services in Zimbabwe. Their slow action, at best, and in action at worst, makes them not only complicit in the exercise of politically motivated violence and in Magura's murder case, but also makes them responsible for it through their sometimes silent consent. What is even more worrying in the case of Zimbabwe's police and Prosecuting authorities is that the consent and sponsorship of politically motivated violence and extra judicial killings is sometimes not even silent. On numerous occasions, top officials from the police force and the Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana, himself, have openly dumped their affirmation of loyalty-- "to be faithful and bear true allegiance to Zimbabwe and observe the laws of Zimbabwe €--choosing a new oath to serve and protect particular individuals and political parties. This shocking unprofessional conduct is not only well documented in the public sphere but is also drilled into police recruits and professionals serving in the AG's office. This behavior perhaps serves to explain the allegation that members of the police force watched idly as Magura was brutally murdered in Mudzi.
If it were possible to forgive the police and prosecuting authorities in Zimbabwe for their blatant neglect of duty, ( of which it is not), it would perhaps be on the basis that their lethargy and inaction is a microcosm of the macrocosm. When signs of things going bizarre start showing, the tendency is for Zimbabweans in general is to retreat into their cocoons and wait for the situation to deteriorate to inconceivable levels before they start thinking about preventative action. For some they escape to safer havens (fleeing abroad) created by the proactive actions of citizens of those countries. This attitude is in stark contrast to situations elsewhere. Forinstance, the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia in January of 2011, which was blamed on the Tunisian authorities because of the reasons he burnt himself, sparked a public response that eventually toppled a 29-year-old brutal regime. In stating the above, we are not calling for self immolation or even for the toppling of the Zimbabwean regime, in spite of its transgression - all we are simply doing is to draw attention to the fact that our dereliction of responsibility as citizens in terms of forcing our authorities to act when action is demanded, may just be pushing us towards a deeper political hole of political violence, than we are already in.
The tell tail signs of the country sliding back into a violent epoch have never left us, and are already starting to indicate catastrophe as we head for elections. This is especially so if the elections held, as ZANU PF would want, in the absence of meaningful democratic and electoral reforms. The Government of National Unity still has the opportunity to save the country from doom by holistically dealing with the issue of violence and starting to take corrective action instead of paying lip service to a scourge that continues to affect Zimbabweans from all walks of life. Convening conferences were leaders pledge peace with one lip while the other lip is preaching violence will not address the issue of violence.
The key drivers of violence in Zimbabwe are Impunity and selective application of the law. Our society and the legal system have adequate punitive measures that can be deterrents to perpetrators of political violence. The challenge is that Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri is presiding over a police service that often at times ignores its duty it carries it out selectively. The other challenge is that attorney General Johaness Tomana is presiding over a prosecution service that applies the law in a typical George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' style were some animals are more equal than others and therefore immune to prosecution. While the government can be blamed collectively for failing to bring to book the perpetrators of the 2008 violence to book, it is also clear that the main bearers of blame are the Police and the AG's office. It is such failure that is now putting the country to shame through having other jurisdictions like South Africa being compelled by their own justice systems to investigate the political violence that occurred in Zimbabwe in 2008. That precedent of inaction on political violence is certainly going to give impetus to more violence since it has become apparent that one can get away with crime depending one's political disposition.
The year is 2012, and political actors and all citizens are well advised to follow the advice of local musician Stunner, who in his own musical battles declares "ngatisiyei pfuti kumba, tirovane nemashoko € (lets leave our guns at home and beat each other up with words). Politics and political activity is indeed supposed to be a battle for ideas and the hearts and minds of people. Our country must undergo transformation and our political parties must transit from the politics of cohesion to the politics of persuasion. The year is 2012, 32 years after our independence, terror groups, likes Chipangano should be exposed as terrorist groups that have resorted to unconventional, illegal and unacceptable means of political warfare. The admission by Opah Muchinguri who is co-chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) that Chipangano is for hire to politicians in ZANU-PF is disturbing news. Such groups and other elements of the infrastructure of violence must be dismantled, and take their place in jail, where innocents like Zimrights National Programs Coordinator Cynthia Manjoro and political prisoners like Solomon Madzore are languishing without cause in places that should be for vigilantes and terror groups like Chipangano.
The year is 2012, and it demands that we change our political culture. It is certainly not a year for elections, but a year for credible democratic electoral reforms and cultural shifts that end the continuum of violence that has become a shameful part of our political history.