Zimbabwe: Permanent and durable peace for all citizens

26 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Zimbabwe: Permanent and durable peace for all citizens

The Sunday Mail

President E.D. Mnangagwa

We have been forewarned

Events of the past two weeks following the violent murder of a woman in Nyatsime have once again raised the spectre of political violence in our land.

Fortunately, with a few more months to go before our harmonised general elections, we are now forewarned and thus can forearm.

Any acts of institutionalised violence go beyond harm to immediate victims only; they challenge the authority of the State.

It is the role of the State to ensure citizens are and do feel safe at all times, whether close to, or away from electoral season.

Anything less amounts to monumental State failure, and thus requires prompt repair.

A challenge to three Arms of the State

The State is larger than the Executive. It includes the three pillars, namely the Executive itself which is represented by the Government of the day; the Legislature, which under our bicameral system comprises the House of Assembly and the Senate, and the Judiciary represented by all tiers of our Bench.

The recent violence and arson in Nyatsime thus challenged all these three arms in equal measure.

This thus requires that all three must now respond in perfect concert, so that the authority of the State is never in doubt again, never gets challenged, let alone undermined as before.

Premeditated opposition violence

It would be insincere and deceitful to link the murder of Moreblessing Ali to the violence which was subsequently visited on Nyatsime community.

That the two events were close to each other does not make them causal. The violent actions by the opposition were clearly preconceived and premeditated.

Much worse, they eerily recall a pattern we witnessed in post-electoral 2018, and again in early 2019. It has become an opposition modus operandi to unleash violence soon after elections.

That makes the violence and arson in Nyatsime very much in character.

 Extraneous link

Except for this disturbing predisposition to violence in the opposition, Nyatsime did not have to suffer the violence which engulfed it on that fateful day. Nearly three months before, Chitungwiza and many other parts of the country had held peaceful by-elections.

In those by-elections and soon after, no incidents of violence were recorded, thus debunking the myth that electoral violence is endemic to Zimbabwe.

It thus did not make sense that long after those peaceful by-elections, an isolated but tragic act of gender violence, even then committed outside party politics, provided a pretext for gratuitous political violence by the opposition.

Clearly, the political violence had been premeditated by the opposition which only hungrily waited for an excuse, however tenuous or remote.

A tragedy which should have united the same community across political divide, thus became a damning excuse for mayhem and arson.

Playing to the gallery

While we have always been aware that the opposition takes advantage of international gatherings — Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting or CHOGM in this case — to provoke situations of violence in the country for the attention and gratification of their Western godfathers, no one ever thought the opposition would abuse the severed remains of a slain woman for the same debased end.

The remains of Moreblessing whose politics while she lived appear unknown or contested, became more than a family tragedy; it became an uninvited and certainly an undeserved curse on the otherwise peaceful Nyatsime community. We now know how vile politics blight peace and harmony in communities.

Imported violence

A greater curse considering Moreblessing appears to have met her violent end in circumstances that were both criminal and a-political.

A greatest curse because the perpetrators of the violence which followed had no demonstrable claim on, or attachment to her, whether political or biological. They came from outside Nyatsime for the sole purpose of causing havoc. They were outsiders who came from afar for the sole purpose of importing and causing havoc in a community to which they were strangers.

Contempt of due process

Worse, the opposition never waited for police investigations, arrest, trial, conviction or sentence. As a matter of fact, the accused in the murder case is yet to undergo full trial.

Yet Nyatsime has already been convicted in a political “court”, and punished by a political party. Such unlawful high-handedness, expressing itself as needless, politically motivated convulsions, deserve unqualified condemnation by all right-thinking people. No group of people must ever be allowed to take the law into their own hands, and to debauch our deep sense of humanity and decency.

Responsibility to protect the vulnerable

With calm hindsight, we can now raise many questions, some specific to events on that violent day, others larger and thus societal.

As the President of this country, I insist on the protection of the vulnerable in our society, our women especially. In fact, it is my duty. No violence, let alone one leading to some traumatic end to life, as was suffered by Moreblessing, should be visited upon the innocent.

Moreblessing did not have to die that way and before her time; those accused of the crime should answer for that heinous act, once convicted. We all should abhor violence in any form and for whatever reason. Equally, we all should cherish the protection of life and limb.

Cultivating pro-life values

Under the Second Republic, we have not carried out any death sentence, even where the law provides for capital punishment. I was myself a near-victim of State-sanctioned murder, sanctified as civilised law by the settlers.

Sitting at the helm of the State now, I can never countenance the same vile act meted out against any human being, least of all on any of our citizens.

There are other forms of punishment which can and should be visited upon those who offend against the law, and do so violently.

Death penalty merely multiplies loss of life; it neither restores or upholds life, nor compensate it by taking one more life, however culpable. What does above all else, including the very law which provides for capital punishment, is a strong sense and value of humanity in all of us.

A recognition and respect for the sanctity of life; that collective sense of horror and revulsion we all spontaneously feel at the sight of life prematurely and violently terminated. More than any law, more than any noose, it is that restraining sense and value which durably guarantees sanctity of life in our society. Indeed it is that impulse which makes us all human and humane.

 Responsibility to cultivate humanity

We in leadership must cultivate that powerful and restraining feeling of humanity in our society, cultivate and deepen it as an overriding ethic, and as the first nature of our people; indeed an un-codified and un-policed deterrent to gratuitous violence.

We must invest in that value so it becomes the keeper of all life in our society.

Politicians, church and community leaders, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, relatives, lovers, strangers, even enemies and opponents, we all have a part to play in cultivating this strong sense of collective humanity so it abides in our land, and becomes a powerful mores governing all human conduct.

Tragic lapse in leadership

What I cannot fathom, let alone countenance, is when those of us in leadership instigate violence in society. It becomes a monumental lapse in leadership, an unpardonable indictment to all of us who claim to lead, hold or aspire for Office.

If gold rusts, what will iron do? When morality collapses in echelons of leadership, who then provides moral compass and leadership to the rest of society?

Nyatsime was a failure in leadership; we plumbed to lowest depths of utter depravity, to levels of bare animality, we who claim to lead and, what is worse, we who aspire to govern.

Shame on us!

No sacred cows on political violence

I said Nyatsime challenged the State, the whole State. Accordingly, the response to this challenge must be holistic, enlisting all arms of State. Those of us in the Executive are ready to act our part fully. We categorically say No to any forms of violence, political violence especially.

Elections are about competing on ideas and for ballots; they are not about descending into orgies of violence and arson as happened in Nyatsime, and as happened in 2018 and 2019.

We are ready to act decisively against perpetrators of political violence, whoever they may be. There will not be any sacred cows in respect of this vice, no impunity whatsoever.

This is our vow going forward.

A call to our legislators

I ask of a similar resolve from our Legislators, both as lawmakers and as political leaders and actors. It does not matter which party they pledge loyalty to. Our people deserve complete peace, and no less. The spectre of political violence require a strong legislative response which makes it abundantly clear this society does not condone violence, and will not spare the rod of law against it. Our duty is to ensure our law enforcement agencies have adequate laws to pre-empt and deal with political violence wherever it is likely, or where it occurs.

Legislators must renounce violence

It also demands that we all genuinely disavow violence as members, actors and leaders of political parties.

We cannot make and pass laws for peace, which peace we do not cherish or cultivate; in fact, which we daily undermine as political actors.

Nyatsime was about violence deployed and orchestrated from above. That made the whole development dishonourable. We thus have to show, both by force of conduct and example, how to forge peace at all times and in all circumstances, including during elections.

Where one or some of our own get associated with political violence, our collective voices must be heard on the side of peace, in clear unison and across the political divide. There is no better violence simply because it comes from your side. Such reasoning – if one it is at all – amounts to a clear want of leadership.

An appeal to our courts

In 2013, we unanimously endorsed our Constitution, all of us across political parties.

That Constitution, which is non-partisan and which binds us all, clearly abhors violence in all its forms. It emphasises the primacy of rule of law and due process over whims and violent reflexes, in the pursuit of rights and interests.

That Constitution and all the statutes below it allows provide no hiding place for violence, or those associated with any form of violence, including that inspired by base politics. In interpreting the law, our courts must draw a clear line in the sand, so there is no hesitancy or vexations on matters involving political violence.

Once convicted, perpetrators of violence should and must know they are in for a long and painful custodial haul. Only that way do we send a clear signal to merchants of violence, and to the rest of society, that violence does not pay.

Threats to life and limb, and to the authority of the State, must be viewed as dire, and a clear danger to national peace, national stability and to those values that we live by, and seek to inculcate, entrench and bequeath to posterity.

Polls for peace, love, unity and harmony

2023 must see us open a new page in our electoral politics. We must renovate our politics; or where needed, reinvent them entirely. Indeed, peace begins with you and me, with all of us. In unison, we all must chant: Polls for Peace, Unity, Love and Harmony in 2023, and for all times.

Share This: