Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has condemned as window dressing a committee set up to investigate the ongoing violence in rural areas ahead of next month’s election run-off. But President Robert Mugabe’s government rejected the accusation, saying the committee would find ways to solve the aggression, which it blames on the opposition for inciting it. The MDC accuses the government of using violence to intimidate opposition supporters in rural areas to ensure a ruling party victory in the June 27 presidential run-off to perpetuate Mugabe’s 28-year rule.
Glen Mpani is regional coordinator for the transitional justice program at the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the opposition has legitimate concerns about the investigation.
“I fully concur with the sentiments that the MDC has put across regarding the set up of the committee to investigate the violence in the rural areas. How can an interested party investigate itself? If the ruling party was sincere, what they could have done is to set up a neutral body possibly request SADC (Southern African Development Community) to come in as a neutral body with members investigating the cause of the crisis, who is perpetrating that violence, and come out with possible solutions,” Mpani said.
He said an investigative committee would not be credible among fair-minded Zimbabweans.
“If you are one of the people who is being alleged to be leading the process of beating up people in the rural areas, and then you say you want to go out and investigate yourself, I think it is the highest level of pretense that the ZANU-PF is doing. And they know fully well what they would want to achieve in whatever is going to come out of that process is going to be a biased report that is going to attack and level all the blame on the MDC,” he pointed out.
Mpani said the escalating violence in the rural areas could be blamed on the government for failing to protect ordinary Zimbabweans.
“They are in charge of the apparatus of violence. They have the capacity to command them to violence I think we need to look at this in a historical context. In each and every scenario as a ZANU-PF government has called for violence to be unleashed on the people of Zimbabwe. That word has been carried out to the logical conclusion, and it is within this context that we’ve heard instances where they (government) have told their supporters not to be violent. And I know that if they want the violence to stop because they are in charge of that process, they can actually do that,” Mpani said.
He questioned the rationale of what the government wants to achieve by employing violence ahead of the election.
“The question that one would want to look at is whether the damage has been done, and to what extent has it done,” he noted.
Mpani said it is unfair to blame opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai for being out of the country while his supporters are being beaten.
“We need to look at this thing with a broader perspective to it. The concerns as to why Morgan left the country, and should be in the country are quite legitimate to some extent. But we should also look at the regime that we are dealing with. What capacity does it have? Because I think we have known that the ZANU-PF government has not shied away from arresting opposition leadership, beating up opposition leadership. There were cases Nelson Chamisa and others were beaten up by the ruling government. Morgan Tsvangirai was beaten. Tendai Biti was beaten. And I think the ZANU-PF government would not have any restraint to ensure that they incapacitate the leadership and leave the opposition in disarray,” Mpani pointed out.