Zimbabwe: Doubts Over Mugabe’s Message
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s repeated calls for peaceful elections and tolerance of divergent political views might be sweet music to the ear but few believe in his ability to walk the talk.
His speech last week to mark the country’s 33rd independence celebrations was greeted with much hope. But critics worry that his peace calls remain just that; sweet music.
In the past year, the leaders of the three main political parties, ZANU-PF’s President Mugabe, Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube of the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations have gone around the country preaching the gospel of peace.
Peace prayers have also been held across the country with leaders from the political parties in attendance. President Mugabe has also used every little available opportunity to call for peace and tolerance among political foes.
Even at the burial of the country’s vice president (VP) John Nkomo, he voiced the same message, quoting from the late VP slogan: Peace begins with me, peace begins with you and begins with all of us.
But skeptics reason that previously the incumbent has made similar pronouncements that were never followed through by action. They paint a picture of a man who, at 89 years of age, is eager to spruce up his image tainted by a long history of human rights abuse allegations.
They say the ZANU-PF leader must show his sincerity by reforming the security sector that has been responsible for most of the State-sponsored violence. The 2008 election was characterised by widespread violence, in which some 200, mainly MDC-T supporters were killed and an estimated 500 000 forced from their homes.
The securocrats are accused of orchestrating some of the violence after President Mugabe lost the first round of elections in March 2008, leading to PM Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the presidential run-off in protest to the violence.
The securocrats have been pivotal in President Mugabe’s continued stay in power, with army generals previously indicating that they would not salute anyone without liberation war credentials, an apparent reference to a PM Tsvangirai presidential win.