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Unity must transcend to the grassroots

Zimbabwe’s political leaders on Wednesday put on a show of companionship at the State House, where President Robert Mugabe signed the new constitution into law.

Holding hands, patting each other and cracking jokes, the leaders — Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Vice-President Joice Mujuru — appeared like genuine friends.

Mugabe used the historic occasion to try to further cultivate an image of a peace-loving leader who wants to see Zimbabweans living in harmony. He once again called for peace and tolerance among people of different political beliefs.

Mugabe’s performance left some commentators thinking that the politician, now in the twilight of his career, may finally be keen to end a culture of political violence that has taken root in Zimbabwean politics.

However, these peace calls alone won’t help unless Mugabe’s new found zeal for peace and harmony transcends to the grassroots, where rivalries along political lines are still rife and wounds are still festering.

Mugabe should move away from mere rhetoric and start to rein in youth militias responsible for unleashing violence in the communities. Just a few kilometres from the State House where the leaders exchanged pleasantries, residents of Mbare are living in fear of the notorious Zanu PF terror group Chipangano.

In other cities and towns, similar groups are wreaking havoc on opponents of Zanu PF. Prominent among these are Chinhoyi’s Top six and Kwekwe’s Al Shabab.

Jabulani Sibanda is also among the war veterans accused of instilling fear in the hearts and minds of MDC supporters.

Statements coming from Mugabe’s inner cabal, including service chiefs, have also not helped matters. Recently Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu vowed the country would not be taken through the power of the pen, meaning that Zanu PF would not accept defeat in the forthcoming elections.

The state media also continues to churn out hate speech directed mostly at Tsvangirai and his MDC party. Such actions do not bode well for peace.

If Mugabe’s calls for peace are to be taken seriously, he should deal with these hate mongers and allow police to disband militias that are operating in the name of Zanu PF.
Quote of the week

Our journalism must be journalism of a high standard. Ah, filthy journalism. Mavakushorwa zvinotondinyadza [You are being criticised and its embarrassing]. It’s as if we are not educated at all. . . . We want now to build the nation and build the country, develop our resources, ensure there is wealth that is shared by the people.” An extract from President Robert Mugabe’s constitution speech.

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