Analysts and civic groups are beginning to question whether Mugabe’s repeated calls for an end to violence are sincere or he isjust grandstanding as his gospel of peace appears to be falling on deaf ears.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition acting national director, Dewa Mavhinga is of the view that Mugabe should demonstrate total commitment to peace through a clear and unambiguous call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of violence.
Many of them are from the Zanu PF ranks and its Mbare-based Chipangano militia group as well as elements in the security forces. Mavhinga said decisive action against “merchants” of violence was the surest way to promote peace in Zimbabwe, not statements which can easily be dismissed as cheap politicking.
“In the world of politics it is all too easy to stand on hilltops to preach peace while privately urging relentless violence,” said Mavhinga. “For Mugabe’s words to be meaningful they must be backed by resolute action to surgically cut out toxic violence with the precision of a butcher’s cleaver.”
He said as Mugabe was denouncing political violence in the country at the Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium, youths from his party were allegedly assaulting and harassing people in Epworth suburb in Harare and other parts of the country.
Mugabe meant every word he said, says Mutsvangwa
Political analyst and Zanu PF sympathiser Ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa said Mugabe was a principled leader who sticks to his word.
He said the call for peace was a consensus position shared by other principals in the coalition government including Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
“People who think he was grandstanding have their own agenda which is to see Zimbabwe in constant turmoil,” said Mutsvangwa. “People should take Mugabe’s message in goodwill. The President cannot grandstand at an important event such as our national Independence celebrations.”
He said groups such as Chipangano were made of gangsters who should not be taken seriously.
“Those prone to violence are increasingly being isolated and the law will soon take its course,” said the former Zimbabwe ambassador to China. “We wonder where they are taking a cue from when the President, Prime Minister and government ministers are working together very well in cabinet and at other platforms.”
Mutsvangwa claimed that in the past, it was European countries, which were largely responsible for fanning violence in order to cause divisions in the country.
“The geopolitical environment which encouraged divisions has now changed and Europe no longer has time to be mischievous as the bloc is now weak and preoccupied with its own problems, including a huge debt crisis,” he said.
“This is why they are talking of ending sanctions against the country.”
Mugabe does not enforce no-violence mantra: Analysts
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said people have to be wary of such statements by Mugabe as experience had shown that he “indicates left, but turns rights.”
He said from the year 2000 elections when political polarisation began in the country, Mugabe has been publicly calling for peace, but on the ground does not restrain groups from unleashing violence.
“Recent intensification of calls for peace in the concept of the coalition government does not translate to any change of behavior on the ground by his supporters,” said Mangongera.
“Mugabe must demonstrate seriousness by ensuring that known perpetrators face the music. As long as they roam the streets free people will find it difficult to believe Mugabe and Zanu PF are committed to peace.”
Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras) chairman Gift Mambipiri said the message of peace from Mugabe now plays like a broken record as he has always said the same since his inaugural independence speech in 1980.
But, he said, Mugabe has never followed up with concrete action adding that the President wore many hats for various occasions.
“On Independence day he spoke like a statesman but we all know he was merely grandstanding. He has always said peace but acted otherwise through groups like Chipangano and some war veterans leaders,” said Mambipiri.
He said people no longer listened to Mugabe because his agenda both in his party and on national politics had been overtaken by events on the ground.
“While he works to consolidate his hold on power both in the party and government, his peers are too busy nicodemously working on the post-Mugabe project to listen to him,” said the Zacras chairman.
“Mugabe can’t conclusively condemn violent groups because they are the ones that made him and he owes them a favour. He has been down several times since the 2000 elections and these groups have always secured new leases of life for him.”
Mambipiri said violence which has been rocking the country since the 1980’s was largely a local creation, citing the Gukurahundi era which saw the deaths of thousands of people during an army crackdown in Midlands and Matabeleland regions.