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Creating a climate that justifies full-scale repression
Comment, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
April 01, 2007

THE savage attacks on opposition and civic society members three weeks ago are a resurrection of the orgy of violence that has marred Zimbabwe's electoral landscape since independence. They confirm who in this country has " many degrees in violence".

Zanu PF has incorporated intimidation, coercion and violence into its arsenal whenever its hold on power is threatened. In Nkomo: The Story of my Life, Joshua Nkomo says of the turbulent times he was in government: "I feared, but I certainly did not say, that the internal disruption was coming from the same government that I was telling my people to trust."

In early February 1982, he says first Emmerson Mnangagwa and then the Prime Minister (Robert Mugabe) announced on radio and television that massive stocks of weapons had been found at two farms. "There was, they said, a plot to overthrow the government with the help of South Africa. The man responsible was Joshua Nkomo . . .

"The charges were ridiculous and soon became even more exaggerated."

One find was said to include enough electronic equipment to jam the communications of the entire Zimbabwe security forces. Nkomo dismissed the charges as "pure invention". Hostile publicity was directed against him in the government-controlled media and the Prime Minister said: "The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head." Mugabe told the nation that the Father of Zimbabwe had become the Father of Dissidents.

That strategy has changed little. Mugabe still contrives to use these ploys in order to justify remaining in office. Today similar accusations are raised but the target is the MDC, which the government charges with plotting jointly with the UK and US to effect regime change.

But during 2000, 31 people were killed and more than 500 were seriously injured in politically motivated violence blamed on the government. During 2002 54 people died.

Edgar Tekere in his recently published book, A Lifetime of Struggle, says of the 30 May 1989 Dzivaresekwa parliamentary by-election: "Our candidate was Mutikore. This was a real baptism of fire because (Herbert) Ushewokunze came out with a group of armed thugs, and threatened everyone . . ."

Patrick Kombayi, Tekere writes, "was contesting against Simon Muzenda in the Gweru constituency.

"As he was driving through Gweru on a road leading to Harare, but still in the town centre, he was shot in broad daylight". His attackers were pardoned by Mugabe.

Following the brutal assault on leaders of the labour movement while in police custody last September, Mugabe brushed aside concerns of "a profound sense of dismay" from the UN Country Team, International Labour Organisation and the International Bar Association, suggesting the trade unionists got their just desserts.

The cases cited above scribe a pattern of State repression but more importantly highlights who, between the State and the opposition, has a history and capacity for violence.

Hype, exaggeration and demonisation of opponents are Zanu PF's tried and trusted methods. So are political violence and electoral manipulation. Then Sadc wants us to believe that free, fair and democratic elections were held in 2002. Nobody will buy that.

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