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I write this with a heavy heart that in the past few weeks, Zimbabweans and the world have been reminded how politics still remains an arena of violent conflict. The world is in mourning after alleged Islamic State sympathisers murdered 129 innocent citizens in a series of terrorist attacks in Paris, France this past weekend. Only a few weeks ago, a Metrojet Airbus A321 plane from Egypt’s popular Sharm el-Sheikh resort heading to St Petersburg, Russia crashed and killed 224 passengers in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Again, fingers have been pointing to the ISIS.
This past weekend Zimbabweans woke up to news that a man identified as Proud Mupambwa was arrested for the gruesome murder of Lloyd Jamawo and Marko Masenda in Manyame Park, Chitungwiza in what appears to be a case of resurgent ZANU PF- instigated political violence. This was a few days after scores of MDC-Tsvangirai youth activists had been arrested after violent confrontations with Zimbabwe Republic Police.
Let me set the record straight. In more cases than one, we Africans have had to resort to violence in order to extricate ourselves from the shackles of colonialism, only because people like Ian Smith refused to consider the option of peaceful negotiations. However, for us Zimbabweans, thirty five years after we restored political sanity to our lives, there are elements within the ruling party ZANU PF still afflicted by residual demons of violence. This has not only tarnished our democracy, but also resulted in millions of innocent Zimbabweans being displaced internally and externally, failing to configure their lives in a trajectory of peace, development and wealth creation.
My party MDC has diligently participated in almost all elections since year 2000 despite immense odds staked against us. In 2005, we decided to embark on a course of ‘separate development’ after our colleagues started exhibiting characteristics of the enemies of peace as well as brazenly acting against the tenets of collective decision making that we so much cherish as a party. But our joy was short-lived in that we thought ZANU PF had learned from its errors of the past. Our presence in the ‘negotiated’ process of the September 2008 coalition agreement was proof that given a chance of ‘peaceful co-existence’, the MDC can achieve great things. All you need to consider is the collective sterling performance of the ministerial MDC deployees in the Inclusive government who included David Coltart, Moses Mzila, Priscila Misihairabwi Mushonga, Robert Makula and Lutho Addington Tapela. You cannot also ignore the MDC’s role in restoring constitutional sanity when thousands of our party members and scores of Members of Parliament toiled day and night in COPAC meetings that eventually ushered in Zimbabwe’s new constitution in 2013.
Therefore, as time limps slowly towards 2018, I can already sense some vibrations caused by individuals jostling for the proverbial front row in Zimbabwe’s politics. As noted above, those that are in and desperate for power – even according to the latest Zimbabwe Peace Project report – have begun to stalk the fires of instability. The ‘traditional forces’ of greed, selfishness, hate and vengeance are already exposing their deadly fangs. These Agents of Lucifer have no interest of people at heart. The majority of Zimbabweans are suffering from poverty, disease, unemployment and homelessness. What Zimbabweans seek are political parties and leaders who inspire solutions not based on property expropriation, demagoguery, false promises, charisma and vote buying, but sustainable, human friendly strategies. Simply put, we do not deserve to be and are tired of suffering. This is why year 2008 will forever remain etched in my mind.
ZANU PF – one of the culprits in the cycle of violence, deceit and false promises – has completely failed to learn from the past. They pretend that everything is business as usual. Perhaps also the fault lies in us Zimbabweans. In 2007-2008, we went through a period of unprecedented pain and suffering. Because of ZANU PF’s insatiable hunger only for political power, their policies emptied shops of consumable commodities. I distinctly remember my party members carrying ‘millions’ in worthless paper currency printed by ZANU PF apologist Gideon Gono. Thousands of citizens survived from buying bread and rice from Nyamapanda, Victoria Falls, Beira, Francistown and Musina. For those supermarkets that remained open, one would find shelves full only of bottled water and toilet paper.
Those that survived did only because of relatives in the Diaspora who sent them money to ‘burn’ in illegal currency deals, because commercial banks had nothing to offer. I distinctly remember my cousins going to boarding school under instruction from school authorities to bring cooking oil, salt, sugar and maize meal as ‘proof of admission’. While ZANU PF cronies travelled the world accumulating allowances and dealing in Chiadzwa diamonds, villagers in Kezi and Murewa starved to death. I have heard sad stories of pregnant women dying from eating chakata / umkhuna and some exchanging whole cattle beasts for a mere sack of maize.
Economists say that at that time, Zimbabwe broke inflationary records of up to one million percent. Thousands of professionals – ZESA engineers, secondary school teachers, doctors and nurses sought refuge abroad as public services ground to a halt. In Harare, mountains of uncollected garbage were a familiar sight as municipal authorities ran out of money to service vehicles. Both the water and waste management systems totally collapsed, resulting in disease outbreaks as millions of citizens failed to travel home due to lack of fuel in service stations. That indeed was the year that universities failed to look after students and requested them to stay off campus or bring their own food.
Amidst this economic turmoil, ZANU PF insisted on making elections so violent in 2008 that even the usually reserved SADC deployed the then President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to call for a negotiated Government of National Unity. There are some today – even in our opposition ranks – who insist that our tenure in that government achieved nothing other than ‘aiding’ ZANU PF to redeem its rule of arrogance. They say that had we left the situation to implode, there could have been a revolution to usher a new era of governance. I do not agree, but then we will never know.
Let me conclude with a kind warning. We are almost three years past our last 2013 elections and heading towards 2018. There are no signs that the ZANU PF that put us through the horrors of 2008 has changed at all. In fact, they have become more vicious, at most cannibalizing each other and expropriating more private property. Opposition parties are shouting their voices hoarse for Vice President and Minister ‘responsible’ for Justice, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to speed up electoral reform. The same people that were responsible for the disputed 2013 elections – Justice Rita Makarau, Joyce Kazembe and Tobaiwa Mudede – are still prominent members of electoral institutions. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network is on the people’s side, arguing day and night for the implementation of the agreed electoral reforms – but the ruling party, boasting of its ‘tyranny of numbers’ in Parliament, continues to pay lip service to constitutionalism. Let me warn Zimbabweans to learn from history by not entertaining any thoughts of voting for ZANU PF in 2018. They must join us, the MDC, in calling for unconditional implementation of electoral reforms.By Welshman Ncube