As Zimbabwe braces for yet another contested electoral cycle this year, it is palpable that the stakes are astronomical. Politicians obstinately preserve the status quo and their proximity to state power, while the masses resign miserably to their angst exacerbated by a rapidly deteriorating socio-economic situation.
For politicians in ruling and opposition circles—whose elite interests coalesce seamlessly—empty populist rhetoric is about to reach its zenith. And for the majority poor mired in degrading existence marked with unprecedented poverty levels, the feeling that they are caught between a rock and a hard place is one which they slavishly and stoically endure.
In this context, the phenomenon of political violence shows that elections are rarely about the people but represent opportunistic elite gains for politicians.
Zimbabwe’s impending 2023 harmonized elections seem to portend flickers of optimism. But given how tumultuous elections have been since 2000, such optimism is truly tenuous. This hope is strangulated by the individual and collective trauma of a scarred nation. Political contestations exude violence, fear, and uncertainty: features declared immutable since the colonial era.
Elections should be people-centred and positively transformative—a prospect perpetually dimmed by political actors’ intransigence in refusing to embrace a critical, genuine, and empowering ethic of democracy—empathetic, organic, solidaristic, emancipatory, participatory and tolerant of diverse views.
Zimbabwe’s major political leaders [either side of the political divide] mirror a fraught political arena marred with insufferable partisan interests. Where there is no progressive policy debate/dialogue, violence flourishes.
Without meaningful critiques of the status quo, where dissenting voices are ruthlessly silenced, such dearth of altruistic democracy mutates into the conventional trope of African political violence. People have lost confidence in elections: they serve global capital to the detriment of the “people”.
Egregious acts of political violence in the rural Murehwa and the protracted detention of opposition politician and activist Job Sikhala crystallize the dearth of genuine, liberatory democracy. It is anachronistic that violence must be an unchangeable feature of electoral moments.
Political violence is pathological—it reveals the total failure to engage in substantive mutual dialogue for alleviating the material conditions of Zimbabweans, thereby necessitating brute force and coercion.
The horrendous atrocities of 2008 linger in our national consciousness, and the barbaric military violence of 2018 is concretely etched in people’s psyche.
This foments fear and apathy—elections are not mere occurrences, they are about human life. Citizens deserve better options regarding political candidates, while divesting the country of political violence that renders elections and democracy farcical.
With the country’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa hinting that elections in Zimbabwe will be held around July 2023, and with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission still not inspiring any confidence regarding reforms and enabling a level playing field devoid of partisan interests, it is incumbent upon all peoples of Zimbabwe and the world to strive for a people-centred politics that speaks to the aspirations of the masses. And bringing into fruition those aspirations.