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Dialogue can stop political violence

Failure to solve political differences through dialogue has resulted in a culture of politically motivated violence, analysts have said. Zimbabwe has a long history of politically motivated violence dating back to the colonial era where white settlers would use systemic violence to maintain power.

Political scientist Dr Norman Pinduka (PhD) said elections are likened to war in the country. “Elections have always been more than just a contest of power in Zimbabwe, they have actually been a war by other means” he said. “Events that have transpired in Zimbabwe reveal that the country is still politically acculturated to the belief that any opposition to the ruling party has to be perceived as an enemy of the state.

The attack left a CCC member dead and several others injured and hospitalised. CCC’s current nomination process has also been marred by violent attacks from suspected ZANU PF activists especially in the ruling party’s strongholds. During the recent ZANU PF primary elections, violent clashes were also reported as members from different camps pushed for their candidates. Violence has at times been instigated by opposition politicians sometimes during their intra party elections, with a recent case being that of former MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe being slapped during an elective party congress in Harare where she eventually lost her presidential post. Political analyst Gibson Nyikadzino said political violence is caused by failure to resolve issues through dialogue.

“Causes of intra and inter-party violence are nearly similar; from competition, forging alliances, intolerance, to vindictiveness,” he said. “However, what might be the ultimate cause in post independent Zimbabwe is the failure of those in positions of leadership to resolve issues through dialogue. “This is evident in the past, and in the now”. Nyikadzino encouraged political leaders both in ruling party and opposition to break the circle of violence.

“The failure to resolve political differences through dialogue has led a behavioural and psychological challenge that sees violence as an alternative even to challenges that are administrative”, said Nyikadzino. “There are instances when the opposition has provoked violence, and other reports where opposition say it has been provoked, violence is not the essence. “There has to be mechanisms to deal with violence, with priority being dialogue”. Zimbabwe is less than four months away from the harmonised presidential, local government and parliamentary elections. Violence has already been witnessed in different areas leading many stakeholders to anticipate the worst cases since 2008.

Nyikadzino however pins the hopes of a non violent election to the country’s international engagement drive. “I don't see the 2023 elections in the framework of violence because a violence free election is part of Zimbabwe’s commitment to the IMF, World Bank, EU, USA and Britain as part of its re-engagement policy”, he said. “Elections without violence are possible if people are politically conscious to build tolerance regimes and eliminate political polarisation. “This should be started from the grassroots because it is the grassroots people that are vulnerable as they are used to execute violence, yet they are the most affected.

Dr Pinduka however sees last year’s by-elections and violence incidence since then as an indicator that the forthcoming election will be bloody. “In the worst scenario; history will repeat itself, politically motivated violence targeting members of CCC in the run up to the 2023 election can be the order of the day,” he said. Political intimidation is already being reported in many areas though violence is still relatively low. “A historiographical overview of Zimbabwean elections suggests that harassment and intimidation are more common than lethal violence,” Dr Pinduka said.