President Robert Mugabe’s statements encouraging Zanu PF youths to take the law into their own hands in dealing with members of the ruling party that go around perpetrating violence in his wife’s name are irresponsible and demean his office.
Comment: The Standard Editor
Mugabe told a Zanu PF rally in Lupane on Friday that members of his party must give those perpetrating violence in his name “the punishment they deserve” and call the police afterwards.
He was probably referring to a video that has gone viral on social media where members of the Children of War Veterans Association (Cozwa) were captured abusing people for not supporting first lady Grace Mugabe. Mugabe effectively called on the Zanu PF youths, infamous for their violent tendencies, to maim in his name.
Cozwa is a Zanu PF affiliate and one of the privileged groups that can organise protests and public meetings without being molested by the police, as is the case with those that hold different views from the president and his family.
The video has been in the public domain for some time now, but the Cozwa members still roam the streets undisturbed by law enforcement agents who are so quick to pounce on opposition activists, in most cases over trumped up charges.
Political violence has become so endemic in Zimbabwe, leaders believe it is a laughing matter. Yet so many lives have been lost over the years and the country is treated as a leper by the international community because of the barbaric nature of our politics.
Mugabe himself boasts of having many degrees in violence. His legacy is blighted by a genocide that claimed over 20 000 lives in Midlands and Matabeleland after he tried to annihilate supporters of one of Zimbabwe’s founders — Joshua Nkomo.
Zimbabwe is isolated and the economy is on its knees because we cannot hold peaceful elections, but the president appears intent on perpetuating this shameful record as we hurtle towards the 2018 polls.
Instead of putting his dogs on a leash, Mugabe set them on his opponents once again with that statement at Somhlolo Stadium.
He has given them the licence to maim and kill because as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, the Zanu PF youths will not stop with the Cozwa thugs because the two groups share many things in common than they do with the opposition.
Mugabe made the inflammatory statements just a day after MDC-T vice-president Elias Mudzuri’s property in central Harare was burnt by arsonists.
A week earlier, an MDC-T vehicle had been burnt down in what is suspected to be a case of political violence as it happened a few hours after the opposition party’s youths held a demonstration in the capital that was violently put down by police. The criminals behind those incidents have not been accounted for and they may never be arrested.
Civil society groups have also reported an upsurge in cases of political violence across the country and Zanu PF has been singled out as the main culprit.
Cases of people being denied aid in rural areas because of their opposition to Mugabe and Zanu PF are also rife. These are the issues Mugabe should be tackling, taking advantage of platforms such as the rally he had in Lupane, but he chose to be inflammatory.
The president must be clear in his stance against political violence and avoid speaking with a forked tongue. As head of state, he is supposed to ensure that police do their work and arrest those that are in the forefront of political unrest.
He must take police commissioner Augustine Chihuri and his commanders to task for failing to deal with Cozwa outlaws and other thugs that go around abusing fellow Zimbabweans in the name of Mugabe, his family and Zanu PF.
For Mugabe to try and claim the moral high ground by saying violence was not part of Zanu PF culture was disingenuous.
The president must admit that he has been part of the problem in the last 37 years and it is time that he put a stop to this madness.