The government of national unity (GNU) formed in 2009 ended a wave of political violence that was characterised by murder, kidnappings, torture and massive displacements of people.
Political analysts last week warned that recent running battles between police and vendors in Harare, arrests and torture of MDC-T activists across the country and Zanu PF’s continued reluctance to implement the roadmap to free and fair elections were tell-tale signs of imminent political chaos.
This comes as a Zanu PF-aligned militia group, Chipangano, appears to be reclaiming the violent political space it occupied in 2008 by continuing to terrorise suspected supporters of MDC-T with impunity.
The MDC-T has pointed a finger at state security agents, particularly the police, who they accuse of working in cahoots with Zanu PF to decimate its structures.
Zanu PF has also roped in the state media which has intensified vitriol against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his party, in violation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
Through the use of war veterans, Zanu PF has tried to derail the constitution-making process so that elections are held under the current supreme law which favours President Robert Mugabe. The party has however, denied fermenting violence or disrupting the constitution-making process.
MDC-T deputy spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo said the escalation of violence in rural areas, arrests of her party activists and MPs as well as the harassment of ordinary people by security agents were enough indicators that the country was sliding into another crisis of the 2008 magnitude.
MDC-T has alleged that at least 200 of its supporters were murdered by Zanu PF militia and state security agents during the 2008 elections, forcing Tsvangirai to boycott a run-off.
“This is how it all started in 2008,” said Khumalo. “They (Zanu PF) want to win these coming elections by hook and crook and they will not spare anyone who stands in their way.”
Phillip Pasirayi of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) says the current tense atmosphere was being caused by the fact that political parties had entered into an election mode.
He says the continued incarceration of MDC-T activists, including the party’s youth assembly chairperson, Solomon Madzore, was meant to paralyse the party ahead of polls.
“One of Zanu PF’s poll strategies is to slow down the MDC-T momentum, especially the work by the MDC-T youth assembly, to mobilise young and first-time voters,” said Pasirayi. “It is for this reason that Madzore will not be released anytime soon because Zanu PF is panicking and wants the MDC-T to be pre-occupied with these court battles and not to mobilise people to vote.”
Without institutional and security sector reforms, says Pasirayi, the next elections will not deliver any change. He said the Southern African Development Community (Sadc)-brokered elections roadmap must address these issues and include a power-transfer mechanism to ensure that the winner is allowed to form the next government.
“Without these reforms, Zimbabwe will remain an example of an electoral-authoritarian political system, where elections are held for self-legitimating purposes for incumbents and not to bring about change and not to deepen democracy,” said Pasirayi.
Analysts say Zimbabwe is fast approaching a “tipping point” as political parties violate the spirit of political co-existence and tolerance encouraged by the GPA as they prepare for elections.
Alexander Noyes, a research assistant at the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, foresees a major crisis if elections were to be held without security sector reforms.
“Zimbabwe is fast approaching a dangerous tipping point,” said Noyes. “If a political settlement with Zimbabwe’s security chiefs is not negotiated before the vote, Mugabe will, no doubt, rely on them to once again begin a campaign of intimidation and violence, leading to sham elections that could precipitate a regional crisis.”
But Khumalo said MDC-T will insist on security sector reforms before any elections to avoid a scenario whereby Mugabe refuses to hand over power in the event of losing.
“They have turned all state security departments into appendages or sub-structures of Zanu PF and this why we insist on reforms,” said Khumalo. Another political analyst, Dewa Mavhinga said Zanu PF was pushing for early elections while resisting any reforms to realign the political leadership of the army to act in a manner consistent with the dictates of multi-party democracy.
He said security sector reforms were necessary to prevent the country from sliding back into chaos during elections.
“A sustained push for the re-alignment of the security sector, which includes the injection of fresh blood at the top, is one key guarantee for a non-violent, free and fair election,” said Mavhinga.