Was peace pledge just symbolic?

THAT some 71 political violations have been recorded in the first two weeks of this month, including threats, use of inciting or threatening violence, acting in ways that provoke violence and forcing voters to reveal their choice of candidates, is unfortunate and regretted.

What is telling is that this comes after representatives of 21 of the 23 presidential candidates in this month’s polls signed the peace pledge last month, marking a historic moment in the country’s political landscape — giving assurances of the first violence-free election in decades.

We believe by signing the peace pledge, the political parties bound themselves and their parties to a code of conduct compelling them to campaign peacefully.

This was a noble initiative meant to promote tolerance, but, alas, a few weeks after the parties put pen to paper under the auspices of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, political violence and intimidation is getting out of control.

But the report by the Zimbabwe Peace Project shows that the lack of tolerance by political actors is appalling. In fact, such lack of tolerance is testimony to the fact that our political actors have not matured yet, as they still resort to Stone Age means of resolving differences to win support. Clearly, we can do better as a nation!

What good does one political party or candidate get in defacing or removing their rivals’ posters? It is high time that political parties and their supporters learn to co-exist peacefully with their opponents if the country is to become a mature democracy.

Elections will come and go in only one day, and we will need each other afterwards. All parties have a role to play in creating the Zimbabwe that we want.

It is also high time that voters show the nation that dirty tricks do not work by dumping parties and candidates who incite political violence.

It is about time this culture of violence comes to an end once and for all. The political parties and leaders who appended their signatures to the pledge must speak against violence and prove that they are indeed for peace. They must call to order their party supporters involved in violence and intimidation.

We, therefore, challenge the two main presidential contenders — Zanu PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa — to take the lead and preach peace at every turn.

They should also demonstrate their hate for violence by expelling any of their supporters engaging in violence. The police must also take the lead by arresting individuals and leaders who incite violence without fear or favour. The time for selective application of the law is over.

It is clear that political parties must take a tough stance to end this cycle of violence, which has in the past resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent people across the divide.

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