Fear mounts as campaign year arrives

Source: Fear mounts as campaign year arrives – DailyNews Live January 10, 2017

Maxwell Sibanda

HARARE – The possibility of political violence this year is high as
political parties start campaigning for what has been described as a do or
die election next year.

Political and social analysts interviewed by the Daily News said the
pattern over the years is that all campaign years have turned violent and
this year the stakes are even higher as Zanu PF wants to retain power at
all costs while the opposition is adamant it will win the election given
the poor state of the economy and the poverty that has engulfed all
citizens across the political divide.

Political analyst Mcdonald Lewanika said 2017 is likely to be an
interesting year politically, but campaigns per se can only begin once
candidates are clear and an election period is demarcated.

“Given precedence, while there is likely to continue to be disturbances
and violence at opposition rallies, these can only intensify and occur
perhaps in greater measure once the above stated details are clear.

“So perhaps counter intuitively violence may be stemmed in 2017 through
lack of clarity on who the primary opposition candidate(s) will be thus
not providing an easy ready target for violence from the state, but
perhaps increases chances of some forms of violence stemming from possible
fights amongst the opposition.

“In all likelihood – campaigns for 2018 will begin in 2017 and we will
still see violent quashing of protests, banning and disturbances of
rallies and so on.

“As we get into 2018 it is possible that no go areas and other
restrictions of freedoms of movement, association and speech will set in
especially in far flung rural areas a few months ahead of elections, if
this happens what will determine the level of violence will be the resolve
of those barred to access the electorate and that of those barring to stop
access from occurring,” said Lewanika.

Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhi said: “It always
difficult to predict the future and that should be left to those gifted
enough to do so but the behaviour of politicians is often easier to
predict based on evidence from the past.

“Elections are a livelihood issue and sadly winning elections must happen
regardless of the cost. That being said, the continued absence of a solid
and constitutional legal framework to conduct credible, free and fair
elections, a clear and exhaustive administrative framework of how to run
electoral processes and a political culture that supports constitutional
behaviour by electoral competitors, 2017 electoral processes remain
vulnerable to the excesses of very selfish and self-serving political

“The current provisions in legislative and administrative frameworks of
our elections make 2017 a year vulnerable to all the ills associated with
Zimbabwe’s electoral history.”

Chimhinhi said however there remains an opportunity to make up for time
lost and address the bulk of the vulnerabilities by strengthening election
related laws “through parliamentary processes, strengthening election
regulations and procedures through the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and
strengthening institutions supporting democracy by availing adequate
resources to them on time, supporting their independence from political
and other negative influences and supporting accountable actions in the
discharge of their duties.”

Mining activist Farai Maguwu said: “Violence works in Zimbabwe politics.
It brought Zanu PF to power and has kept Zanu PF in power since 1980. In
fact Zanu PF has not demobilised its war architecture and ideology.

“This is why they keep referring to the 1970s war during election times.
Unless and until Zanu PF is transformed into a modern democratic political
institution they will always label opponents ‘enemies’ of the people who
must be destroyed. They will most probably make it difficult for the
opposition to organize, especially in rural areas.

“The biggest likelihood of violence is between Zanu PF and People First
because at some point they walked together and used the same weapon.”

ZimRights director Okay Machisa said: “Violence is inevitable. The 2017
shall be violent and such violence as usual will have actors that belong
to the state and some within our communities. Free and fair is a dream in

Political analyst Earnest Mudzengi said: “I wouldn’t necessarily say I
foresee violence. But what I can say is that the elections will not be
free and fair as long as we will not have far reaching electoral reforms
that level the electoral playing field.”

Lawyer Jacqueline Chikakano said: “I think that opportunities for a freer
campaign space are there as supported by a generous constitutional
framework that upholds political rights as well as a number of other key
freedoms during such times such as freedom of expression, conscience,
assembly and association among others.

“But of course this critically depends on the extent to which these are
respected and upheld and on the extent to which the state puts in place
requisite measures to support the existence of a conducive environment. A
lot will rest also on how bold our courts are as some contests will likely
end there.

“However judging by how tough things were economically in 2016, with
shrinking employment opportunities, continued cash crisis and its related
challenges one could fairly speculate that a worsening or persistence of
the current challenges can possibly lead to a brewing of political
violence as the electorate gets desperate and are used by political
parties who often resort to vote buying through things like partisan food

“Thus in my opinion political parties themselves pose one of the biggest
threat to the emergence of election related violence because of the level
of desperation that sections of the public will likely continue to have
going into the elections, more so considering the culture of vote buying
that has characterised past election periods,” said Chikakano.

She added: “It’s my speculation that aside from a conducive legal
environment and challenges that may be posed by related gaps, I think the
economic challenges Zimbabweans are facing will likely be the push factor
to any political violence if at all.”

Political activist Tabani Moyo said in terms of violence, anything can
happen, given the factionalism in the ruling party, it’s highly likely
that it will fuel violent means towards communities.

“You have seen the isolated cases already in Mashonaland Central,
Manicaland and Masvingo in the year 2016. As the flanking year towards the
plebiscite and gauging from history, cases of violence usually escalate as
the ruling party attempts to cordon off campaigning that encroaches into
the Zanu PF strongholds.”

Moyo said the sad situation is that the opposition is still stuck in some
world of its own, failing to read the national mood and the mechanics of
running a successful election.

“By now, we should be seeing serious political activity, founded on big
ideas and strengthening of the capacity to monitor the nuts and bolts of
elections ranging from the proposed new biometric system, ward based
voting, elections materials handling and storage etc. The onus is on the
opposition to raise the stakes very high by showcasing the systems weakens
rather than sloganeering!

“By now the opposition should be proving to all stakeholders how elections
have been successively rigged rather than blanket claims. Campaigns for
the elections should be grounded in evidence of how the past elections
were conducted and proposals on how to safeguard electoral theft.”

Moyo added that there will be serious apathy from urban voters who are
highly disenfranchised. “In addition, the opposition has never gone on a
full swing structured process of ensuring total participation in towns –
Harare and Bulawayo alone, if they all participate are adequate to kick
the ruling party out of power given the demographic profile and ensuring
that the marginal communities are fireproofed from ghost voters.”

Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said: “The year 2018 like all other
elections in Zimbabwe since 1985 will be violent, more so as Zanu PF is
internally confused. Elements that will perpetrate violence include both
state and non-state actors, with non-state actors more fragmented as war
vets, Zanu PF youths and other organs are divided and likely to fight from
different and opposing sides.

“Intra and inter party violence will characterise 2017 to 2018. And the
focus on Zanu PF will be to control of the instruments of violence
especially the police, youth militia and military and its cadres can act
with impunity. Opposition parties will likely be at the receiving end
though potentially could perpetrate violence.”

Social commentator Barbra Mhangami said: “Political campaigns in 2017 will
be neither free nor fair. The environment where Zanu PF has politicised
the military and the police will ensure that there is violence and
brutality towards any opposition party or coalition of parties. “With food
aid likely to be coming into the country due to the drought and low farm
productivity, this aid will likely be politicized and used to `secure’
support in many rural constituencies.

“I believe that in 2016 we saw an emboldened citizenry take to the streets
in peaceful protest of tyranny and we saw police brutality much like the
brutality we saw during the apartheid in South Africa.”

Mhangami added: “We are likely to continue to see citizens take to the
streets peacefully with the same rallying cry as in 2016. Police will be
brutal as will the so called Zanu PF youths. “However I believe
Zimbabweans will never stop protesting. There has been a huge shift in
consciousness in a critical mass of the population and this shift will
spread from urban and peri urban areas to the rural population where the
majority of voters still reside. This is where the protest movements need
to go and light fires.”

Another social commentator Edinah Masanga said: “Observation of human
rights was appalling this past year as is now the modus vivendi under the
current government. Normally when we talk of human rights people are quick
to think only about physical violations of human rights but we must also
allude to the failure to provide public goods by Mugabe’s government as a
gross violation of economic and social rights which also form the core of
human rights in general.

“As for this year I see physical violence escalating because of course
this government will want to tighten its grip on the people and intimidate
them into voting for them – if at all this government was voted into power
at all.

“I think that Mugabe’s government takes all the trophies for being the
best for disenfranchising their people of the very basic human rights- the
same people they purport to stand for.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said: “Whenever Zanu PF’s power base is shaken
and unstable as it is right now, you can always be assured that the regime
will revert to its default mode of violence and intimidation.

“Zanu PF and violence are like inseparable Siamese twins; the one can’t do
without the other. Already there is extreme violence being witnessed in
Bikita West constituency where there will be a Parliamentary by – election

“The chances of Zanu PF winning in 2018 are zero and as such, the regime
has let loose its instruments of thuggery and terrorism; particularly in
the rural areas. But Zimbabweans shouldn’t lose hope because the
beleaguered and faction – ridden, bankrupt Zanu PF regime will be confined
to the dustbin of political history in 2018; if not sooner than that.”

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said: “The year 2017 will see more
jostling for 2018 elections. Electoral violence and voter buying and fraud
will hog the limelight. Zanu PF factional fights will continue to make
political news as much as disintegration in opposition parties makes news.

“While Mugabe’s departure has to be the drastic thing to happen for better
economic and political forecast in 2017, in opposition politics burying of
egos and coalescing against Zanu is the drastic thing required. Otherwise
we will continue with the bunch of weak opposition splinter groups that
are there for donor funds and are comfortable to hold the status of
official opposition parties.”

Legislator Jessie Majome said: “I fear 2016 politics will be characterized
by the abuse of the ruling party’s super majority to systematically
dismantle the constitution which has already started by the horrendous and
uncalled for Chief Justice provisions’ unravelling.

“More of this removal of checks and balances to concentrate de jure power
back into absolute and totalitarian rule by an imperial president is
coming- the devolution provisions, the term limits provisions, the
National Peace and Reconciliation and Media Commissions and presidential
succession provisions are not safe and many others.

“The ruling party’s factional fights will worsen and exacerbate its
failure to govern while resorting to brute force to quell swelling public
anger outpourings.

“A foul and bloody electoral mood will develop and envelope the nation
with prospects of a free election getting dimmer the more desperate the
ruling party gets in failing to quell public ire against its failed
economic policies. Citizens will get bolder to vent their anger at the
increasingly rudderless and drifting government.”