Editorial Comment:Political violence must cease to be an option

28 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Editorial Comment:Political violence must cease to be an option

The Herald

The political violence in Nyatsime, a suburb of Chitungwiza, continues to take its toll with at least one extra person, and perhaps two, dying from the effects and aftershocks of the death of Ms Moreblessing Ali, abducted and killed by an ex-boyfriend according to the growing body of evidence being accumulated by the police.

The violence that was imposed on that suburb by CCC supporters trucked in from outside appears directly responsible for the death of Nyatsime Zanu PF chairman Cde George Murambatsvina, whose house was set on fire in the violence and who was hurt and very badly stressed as a result.

Another death of a prominent Zanu PF supporter was that of the former Manyame district chairperson Cde Tina Gweshe, who also died at the weekend and with her family suspecting she was poisoned after she attended a party last week. 

Obviously the two will be the subject of careful post mortems to determine the precise cause of death and if there is any suspicion of foul play the police are perfectly competent to take it from there.

For example, if the post mortem finds the cause of Cde Murambatsvina’s death can be directly linked to the attack on him and his home, those responsible can expect to face at least culpable homicide charges, along with their arson and assault charges. The courts can then examine any evidence and make a decision. 

With a death in those circumstances the police investigation would move up some steps to find the perpetrators, just as it did for Ms Ali when her body was discovered and the police docket moved from probable domestic violence to murder. 

That is why the main suspect, Pius Jamba, is now held securely in the remand cells awaiting trial on murder charges.

Cde Gweshe’s death definitely requires a post mortem as well if the family suspect she was poisoned; this is a standard operating procedure. 

Even when someone dies from a previously known complaint and is under competent medical care at the time, the fairly long form that next of kin have to fill in before a burial order is issued demands “yes” or “no” answers to other potential causes of death. 

The authorities are bound to check out the affirmative answers and confirm or dismiss them on the medical evidence. And if the cause of death involves any likelihood of an action by someone else then the police become seriously involved. 

This is all routine and those responsible for handling a death know exactly what to do. 

Unlike the CCC, the local Zanu PF supporters have joined the families in mourning the two, but completely peacefully and with the local party leadership setting the example.

They might have their suspicions, but are quite prepared to let the police, the pathologists doing the post mortems and if necessary the courts go through their standard processes. They do not believe in lynch law driven by rumours and whipped up by social media. 

Justice can never be instant. It is a long and complex process to discover if a crime took place, and if it did to find those who probably committed it, and then gather the evidence and then go to court. 

We might find that tiresome, but on the other hand the innocent do not have their rights infringed, the guilty are usually convicted and the ponderous and time-consuming system manages this with very high levels of certainty.

President Mnangagwa dealt with political violence in his weekly column in The Sunday Mail at the weekend. He made it clear that it was totally unacceptable and that Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans do not need this.

Our Constitution and our law, especially with the changes under the Second Republic to more precisely align law with the Constitutional rights, allow people to express their differences and to vote for who they want to represent or govern them. 

But they need to do this peacefully and need to take care that mobilising support does not include encouragement to commit criminal acts.

The President made it clear that the police will deal with all violence, political or otherwise, and will prevent it or stamp it out and bring the culprits to justice. But he also brought up the potential need to tighten the law for political violence and argued the need for it to be considered a serious aggravating factor when a court was looking at sentence.

At present political violence, and calls for political violence and organising political violence are all dealt with the same laws that deal with other acts of violence. If you hit someone over politics, you face the same law as if you hit them over a dispute over a dog.

If you call for political violence you face the same law as if you ask someone to hit another person over that same dog. 

This is fine in many circumstances, since courts are supposed to take into account mitigating and aggravating circumstances when passing sentence. 

Two drunk men of similar strength and size will usually face a significantly lower sentence for a fistfight over a girlfriend than either will face if they beat up that girlfriend. 

But with what we have seen and what we could see there may well be need for the law on political violence to be tightened, as the President presented as a growing need. 

He did not go into detail, but a good start would be to criminalise breaches in the code of conduct all candidates and parties have to sign at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Part of that code involves the need for peaceful political activity.

Another approach would be to fix higher sentences for violence committed, called for or organised for political purposes. We do this already when it comes to vandalising or stealing public electricity infrastructure. The ten-year terms are often considerably greater than most vandals or thieves of other items get given.

The courts can do this quite legally themselves. 

For example, when car theft was spinning out of control some years ago a High Court judge, backed later by the Supreme Court on the compulsory appeal against sentence when a new precedent is set, shoved the standard sentence for car theft up to seven years as a deterrent.

And the growing length of sentences for rape have been driven by presiding officers of courts as they came to understand better the horror of the crime.

But the President was quite correct that whatever route or routes are chosen, and he thought, again correctly, that this required more action by Executive, Parliament and courts, it is time political violence was totally stamped out, that no politician or political supporter ever again saw it as an option. 

As a bonus a society with zero political violence, or even its possibility, can create more opportunities for peaceful disagreement, campaigning and debate. We can win in all directions when peace prevails.

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