‘Bullet mightier than ballot’
HARARE – Information minister and Zanu PF political commissar Webster Shamu says the country cannot be taken through a pen — in remarks that could set the tone for potentially-violent polls.
The Chegutu East MP made the chilling remarks as he addressed hundreds of bishops drawn from the Apostolic Church at the party’s headquarters on Friday.
Apart from the remarks, which echo President Robert Mugabe’s 2008 election statements that the bullet was mightier than the pen, Shamu proceeded to shower praise on security chiefs.
Security sector chiefs have been warning against an MDC electoral win, saying they will not respect a party led by a person without liberation war credentials, a reference to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai has described such remarks as a coup plot.
On Friday, Shamu chose a meeting with church leaders to send shock waves ahead of elections which many say could be Mugabe’s toughest. At 89, the election could also be his last, hence a spirited campaign of carrot and stick.
The church leaders, who had come from across the country to lend their support to Zanu PF, cheered as Shamu repeated the mantra that Zimbabwe could not be “sold” at the stroke of a pen.
“I want to repeat that this country came about through the barrel of the gun. It cannot be taken by a pen, never, never, you can forget,” Shamu said to a thunderous applause from the supposed men of cloth.
Observers say this flies in the face of Zanu PF’s supposed election theme: “My Vote is My Voice and My Voice is My Vote.”
In 2008, after a first round defeat to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is now the country’s prime minister under a shaky coalition government, Mugabe insinuated that he would not allow the MDC, a party he branded as puppets of Britain, to rule this country even if they won an election.
Mugabe vowed ahead of June 2008 presidential election run-off : “We fought for this country and a lot of blood was shed. We are not going to give up our country because of a mere X. How can a ballpoint fight with a gun?”
Tsvangirai subsequently pulled out of the run-off saying “we will not be part of that war”. This was as pro-Mugabe militias chanted “Win or war!”
While Mugabe has in the recent past tried to redeem his image with repeated public pleas for a peaceful election, Shamu’s statements and those of some army generals have cast doubt that credible polls and smooth transfer of power are possible in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga last week described Tsvangirai as a “psychiatric patient”.
A few days later, Zimbabwe Prison Services boss Paradzai Zimondi and Police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri have also made it clear where their allegiances lie.
Shamu on Friday praised them for their stance.
“We would like to thank the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Constantine Chiwenga, commissioner of prisons Paradzai Zimondi and police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri for making clear their position that they will not work with anyone who is out to auction this country,” said Shamu.
MDC officials trashed statements undermining the power of the vote.
Speaking at a rally in Harare’s Southerton area, Clifford Hlatshwayo, the MDC youth secretary for information said the ballot remains the only tool to install or remove political leaders.
“Liberators fought for one man, one vote but the black government was borne through the ballot. The same ballot that voted Mugabe into presidency is the same vote that will put Tsvangirai into power this coming election,” said Hlatshwayo.
Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure reminded Zanu PF to refer to history.
“We hear them saying a pen cannot bring regime change, the country was liberated through the barrel of a gun.
“Here in Southerton, there was once a Zanu PF MP but what removed him? It was the pen. They are joking. The pen installs and removes people from power,” said Madzimure. – Mugove Tafirenyika, Fungi Kwaramba and Wendy Muperi