'Kick them, punish them': Mugabe's call for violence 'worrying'

President Robert Mugabe. (File: AFP)
President Robert Mugabe. (File: AFP)

Lupane - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 93, says his Zanu-PF supporters should beat-up people going around perpetrating violence using the ruling party’s name.

Mugabe told his Zanu-PF supporters at a youth rally in Lupane on Friday that it had been brought to his attention that they were people causing violence around the country and claiming to belong to his ruling party.

"I am aware they are people causing violence saying they are from Zanu-PF," said Mugabe.

"If you see people being violent, seize them, come on. Hold them, kick them, punish them. Then call the police later," he said.

Mugabe, who analysts said was already in the last phase of his campaign for 2018, urged his supporters to meet violence with violence.

The nonagenarian's utterances were seen by many as a clarion call to his storm-troopers to unleash violence against the opposition.

Politically motivated violence

Mugabe's remarks came just few days after Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party called on the veteran leader to stop politically motivated violence reported in some parts of the country.

One of the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai’s deputies, Elias Mudzuri, had his nightclub destroyed by a night fire, while an MDC councilor in Harare’s Kuwadzana high density suburb, Wilton Njanjasi, had the windows of his house shattered while his dura-wall was also damaged by unidentified assailants.

The MDC was quick to point fingers at Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party, charging the veteran leader had "degrees in violence".

Promise Mkhwananzi, the leader of  Tajamuka, reacted angrily to Mugabe’s remarks, telling News24 that he was  tacitly promoting violence ahead of 2018 polls.

"In our constitutional application as Tajamuka we stated that Mugabe was no longer fit to govern and we specifically cited the issue of violence. Following his latest incitement of violence as youth leaders we will respond immediately by installing peace ambassadors around the country to protect citizens from Mugabe’s violence," said Mkhwananzi.

Mugabe's legacy 

Rick Mukonza, a political analyst, predicted a violent election period.

"Violence has always been part of Mugabe's broader strategy of power retention. He either tacitly approves it by not punishing perpetrators of violence or explicitly encouraging it by openly telling his supporters to engage in it against political opponents," said Mukonza.

Mukonza warned that whoever would contest Mugabe  should be prepared to put up with violence against his supporters.

"The aim in this case is to drive fear in to the hearts of his political opponents."

Reward Mushayabasa, another political analyst chipped in, saying Mugabe’s  remarks did not come as a surprise.

"Zanu-PF has a long history of using fear and violence. Fear and violence is part of Zanu-PF's panoply during elections. Mugabe is actually sending out signals that next year's election will not be a stroll in the park," he said.

"The election is likely to define the end of his legacy and that explains why he is keen to win it at all costs - by hook or crook. Such messages should not be taken lightly as empty rhetoric. This is another reminder that Mugabe is no ordinary African tin pot dictator. He is a grand-master of Machiavellian politics and will not go without putting a strong fight."

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