President Robert Mugabe once boasted that he held “degrees in violence”. But his use of force — against farmers, the opposition and sometimes the people en masse — shows that he also has a fiendish feel for degrees of violence. After 28 years of increasingly despotic rule, Mugabe has mastered the dark art of calibrating to best political advantage the state violence that is at his fingertips to command. Violence was ratcheted up before the presidential elections, forcing Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw. Mugabe then declared himself the winner, exactly as plotted.