By Gumisai Nyoni
It is critical to note that Zimbabwe is a country run by a tinpot dictator, to borrow from Ronald Wintrobe’s discourse, referring to a leader who uses state resources to achieve his or her own goals.
The culture cascades down to President Robert Mugabe’s political cabal that has also learnt and mastered the art of looting without remorse. For such oppressive political ruling parties to survive any tide of change, they can only resort to violence as witnessed by the skirmishes that shrouded Norton over the weekend, where supporters of independent candidate Temba Mliswa were butchered by ruling party members bussed from different other constituencies.
In his twilight era of leadership and without an alternative to economic ruin he has presided over for close to two decades now, Mugabe has no other rational advice to give his followers and those occupying the top seats in Zanu PF, except: “Beat them, they will submit to our whims.”
True to this word, Zanu PF no longer knows how to win an election, what it has simply perfected is the maximum use of coercive state apparatuses to maim, abduct and terrorise members of opposition parties.
Can anyone answer today where Itai Dzamara is after disappearing from the public scene for more than a year now? His crime was to register dissent and critique the status quo – a value critically necessary in a democracy. Isn’t that how dictators thrive in an environment in which their relevance would have surpassed sell-date?
The same way Zanu PF retained its power through violence in previous elections since 2000 and the current unleashing of terror on ordinary citizens, it will also do the same for polls slated for 2018.
The inherent culture of intolerance in the ruling party is the “demon it will never exorcise” for it has functioned well to oil Mugabe’s dictatorial machine and safeguard his marauding greedy predators in power.
Violence is integral in the struggle by ruling party stalwarts to protect their loot. Without violence, there is no Zanu PF to talk about. Violence is Zanu PF and Zanu PF is violence.
It is important to note that Mugabe is a leader of posture and rhetoric. He directly contradicts what he preaches in public. In most cases he denies or castigates that he supports violence.
Zanu PF supporters in Zimbabwe have the blessing to massacre opposition members without any one of them facing the wrath of the law. They are literally immune to prosecution.
The belief in terror, while protecting Mugabe, his wife and children, as well as his beloved ones in government, simply eviscerates the already faltering Zimbabwean economy. Ironically the instigators of violence themselves have very little to benefit from the process of attacking members of the opposition.
The same thugs are impoverished, unemployed, exposed to drug abuse, among a host of ills that characterise citizens who live in a beleaguered economic environment.
Sadly it is praise singers who can only survive in this dubious political situation, who must strive to buy favours from the First Family. These politicians have no clue concerning resuscitating economic fortunes of the country; hence they’d rather do whatever Mugabe commands them to do.
And it is true to say that decolonisation hardly heralded a brave new world of true independence to Africa, the continent’s formal political independence was only the beginning of a new struggle for total independence. This new emancipation entails freedom from oppressors like Mugabe, who up to now falsely think Zimbabwe, in isolation, can be a better nation again.
The real struggle opposition parties should focus on is to fight to thwart Zanu PF’s mentality that it is only through violence that we can redeem our fortunes.
This tool used to manipulate electoral outcomes by the ruling party will not subside unless the nation stands firm to stop the madness. Let the ballot take precedence over machetes, Mugabe and Zanu PF must now learn that Zimbabweans are now tired of them and their remote governance policies.
However, it is important to realise that violence will only end when Zanu PF is out of power and when political leaders walk the talk that electoral democracy is the best way to safeguard citizen rights.
- Gumisai Nyoni is an independent political analyst and social commentator. Article appears on Khuluma Afrika.