Abstract In the context of the momentous changes to the Zimbabwean polity, the predilection for violent political problem solving is examined. By reference to public data on political violence for the period 1998 to 2018, Zimbabwe is compared with four of its neighbours in SADC that share a common history of armed struggle; Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The analysis shows Zimbabwe to the most violent of the five countries, with most violence aimed at civilians by political militia, and a very significant amount of the violence (46%) occurs during elections. Furthermore, the kind of political violence during elections is considerably more serious than that which occurs outside of elections. The findings provide a cautionary background to the forthcoming elections in 2018. 1. Background Zimbabwe has entered a new and possibly dangerous era after the events of November and December 2017. The interference of the military in the civilian affairs of a country is always a cause for concern, even if the coup in Zimbabwe was not characterised by a violent overthrow. The deeper concern must be what the role of the military will be going forward into an election in 2018. Will the military be neutral, merely passive observers, or have a vested interest in the outcome? This question is relevant because of the potential violence that always seems to lurk under the surface of Zimbabwean politics. Zimbabwe has an unenviable reputation for being the most politically violent country in Southern Africa, certainly since the civil wars ended in Angola and Mozambique, and the independence of Namibia and South Africa. The country was born out of a particularly violent struggle against white settler domination, entered a new internecine conflict in the 1980s, and, since 2000, has been the subject of violent elections, mass displacements, and continuous repression. Five of the SADC countries emerged out of violent political struggles, headed by liberation movements that subsequently became the ruling parties, and the transformation of liberation movements into modern political parties is frequently complex and incomplete (Southall. 2013). The path of liberation movements in power has drawn a good degree of comment in recent years (Clapham. 2012), and some have suggested that there is a tendency towards the growth of predatory states (Bavister-Gould. 2011; Bratton & Masunungure. 2011). Important in this lack of transformation is the close affiliation between the political and military wings of the liberation movements. As Lucian Way has commented: Finally, and perhaps most important, revolutionary struggle frequently creates strong ties between the political rulers and the security forces. Having emerged out of the revolutionary struggle, security forces are often deeply committed to the survival of the regime and infused with the ruling ideology—all of which enhances discipline. Violent revolutionary struggle tends to produce a generation of leaders with the ―stomach for violent repression (Way. 2011. p20). The propensity for a military-party conflation, as well as the resort to violence, has been wellnoted for Zimbabwe (Mandaza. 2016; Bratton. 2014). 2

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