HARARE East legislator Tendai Biti (CCC) yesterday warned fellow legislators that Zimbabwe could easily slide into a genocide if political polarization on social media is left unchecked.
The opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) deputy president warned that what happened in Rwanda in 1994 could happen to Zimbabwe because the political tension had been high for a long time and the media was not helping ease the problem. 900 000 Tutsis tribesfolks where killed by the Hutus in one of the world’s worst modern-day genocides.
“Politics, in Zimbabwe, is suffocating because it is politics of intolerance, durawalls and division,” he said while debating in favour of having more community radio stations in Zimbabwe.
“If you look at the hatred on social media Mr. Speaker Sir, if you look at some of the things that are said in this Parliament – the language of hatred is so entrenched. We are not very far from Rwanda in 1994.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, you know what happened in Rwanda in 1994. In April, 1994 a million Tutsis were killed in Rwanda, and what was central to that genocide was actually a Community Radio Station.
“A Community Radio Station run by the Hutus which treated the Tutsis as cockroaches. The language we use in our society Mr. Speaker Sir, the language that we use in our country is not language of love. It is not language of solidarity.”
Biti added: “It does not matter whether you are ZANU PF or not, it does not matter whether you are CCC or not, we learn to put Zimbabwe first but that has to start into communities that we live in, that has to start in the communities and villages that we stay – whether you are in Guruve, Dotito, Mukumbura, Chendambuya, Tsholotsho, Binga, Tjolotjolo – it has to start with that.”
Biti referenced a report by Parliament’s Media Committee on its community radio legislation benchmarking visit to Kenya recently. He said Kenyan politics had turned a corner while Zimbabweans remained stuck in politics of hatred.
“One of the things you will see in Kenya confirmed by the report … they have their divisions, politics, political parties, and electoral coalitions which change every year Mr. Speaker,” he said.
“Who would have thought, Mr. Speaker, that in the last election, Raila Amolo Odinga fought President Uhuru Kenyatta but in 2022, President Uhuru Kenyatta is backing Raila Amolo Odinga against his own deputy, William Ruto?
“It is because their politics Mr. Speaker has transcended a certain level. They are able to speak the language of unified Kenya of one Kenya, one vision.
“We are not able to do that because we have never had forces that unite us as Zimbabweans and there is conflict and conflict.”
The country’s post-independence political environment has remained toxic due to disputed and often violent elections, human rights abuses as well as never-ending economic crises which have seen the majority surviving on the bread line.
Biti said there was need for a mindset change.
“So I submit Mr. Speaker Sir, that we need to re-calibrate our mindset, social and moral fabric, we need to restore a new social contract, a new consensus that we can see each other as Zimbabweans.
“It does not matter whether you are ZANU PF or not, it does not matter whether you are CCC or not, we learn to put Zimbabwe first but that has to start into communities that we live in, that has to start in the communities and villages that we stay – whether you are in Guruve, Dotito, Mukumbura, Chendambuya, Tsholotsho, Binga, Tjolotjolo – it has to start with that.”
He added; “Part of the problem of Zimbabwe is that for 42 years, we have not spoken; for 42 years, we have hijacked ourselves under the labels that we give ourselves, whether the labels of political parties, tribe or region and that is not good enough Mr. Speaker Sir, because it fertilises conflict and division.
“Part of the problem Mr. Speaker is the way we name our provinces. Why should we name our provinces Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Matabeleland? Why can we not say Northern Region, South Western region and so forth?
“Why do we create portals of division? If you look at our national identity cards Mr. Speaker Sir, I am an R47 because I come from Murewa. Others like Rusty Markham are zero zero.
“Why should we be identified by the suffixes of our national identification cards? If you are a 63, it means something else, and if you are 52, it means something else.”