Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Zimbabweans must now streetify their anger
By Luke Tamborinyoka
The situation in the country has reached another level.
Emmerson Mnangagwa’s repression has simply run wild, with civic and political activists as well as journalists and the people’s elected representatives being harassed, abducted or incarcerated with reckless abandon, all for no apparent reason.
As I write, the mayor of Harare Clr Jacob Mafume, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzai Mahere and vice chairperson Hon. Job Sikhala have been re-arrested for the second time in less than a year and are currently languishing in the country’s prisons on trumped up charges of communicating falsehoods.
The irony is that it is Zanu PF itself that has institutionalised falsehoods. It is Zanu PF itself that has become a superspreader of perfidy and unbridled falsehoods as exemplified by its statements alleging growth in the country’s economy and the cheap allegation that victims of State-sanctioned abductions are faking their own abductions.
They recently peddled yet another falsehood which has shocked millions on both sides of the Limpopo—the falsehood that President Nelson Chamisa and the MDC Alliance are funded by the ANC and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
They have even wheeled out a mere child barely in his puberty, Tafadzwa Mugwadi, to needlessly attack and make unfounded, disrespectful allegations against a revered institution called the ANC. A whole party abusing a child and in the process brazenly violating the cardinal provisions of the country’s laws protecting the rights of children!
The regime has now simply run amok. No one is safe as Mnangagwa’s government takes perfect cover under the lockdown to repress citizens and to engage in a vain but violent attempt to decimate the people’s project called the MDC Alliance.
Since last year, a host of pro-democracy activists have seen the inside walls of the country’s dingy prisons as the regime takes advantage of the Covid-19-induced lockdown to escalate its repression of innocent citizens.
The lockdown restrictions and the attendant proscription of gatherings are being applied selectively as Zanu PF’s DCC elections and the surrogates’ extraordinary Congress were allowed to proceed. Suffice to say what was extraordinary about the so-called extraordinary Congress was its inquorate credentials even after the regime had supplied this treacherous lot with Zupco buses!
Streetifying the people’s anger is now more of an imperative than it was a few months ago when Zimbabweans exhorted each other to peacefully and constitutionally express themselves in July 2020. It is now urgent, given the exigency of the moment, for citizens to streetify their genuine grievances in line with the dictates of the Constitution.
As the United States of America takes strident steps to impeach and force out an incumbent leader who unleashed untold violence against elected representatives as they sat at Capitol Hill to confirm Joe Biden as the elected President of the country, it appears we have our own Donald Trump here in Zimbabwe who has engendered and incited domestic terrorism against the country’s citizens.
Perhaps when this lockdown and its justifiable restrictions are finally over, Zimbabweans must seriously consider streetifying their anger in line with the provisions of the country’s Constitution.
One hopes that soon, and very soon, the pandemic will allow us to enjoy our Constitutional rights without any fetter and hindrance, particularly the right to demonstrate and petition this murderous regime. And it is the regime itself that has given the signal for the citizens to loudly and unequivocally pronounce themselves regarding the unfolding situation in the country.
Today, I republish a piece I wrote in July last year urging my fellow citizens to streetify their disgruntlement, an exhortation that has become even more relevant as the economy implodes and human rights situation further deteriorates in Zimbabwe:
Time to streetify the People’s Anger
As the regime frets and quacks in its boots over national murmurs for action on July 31, Zimbabweans must not be threatened out of their Constitutional right to peacefully streetify their anger at a clueless regime that has brought the country to these plumbing depths of penury.
Our only choice now is to seek succour and sanatorium in our sacred right to peacefully express our anger, which right is enshrined in section 59 of a Constitution that we made ourselves and affirmed in a referendum in May 2013.
We have become a nation of grievances. Every sector has a genuine grievance against this lot in government. Nurses, doctors, teachers, the rest of the civil service, journalists, judges, informal traders, villagers, traditional leaders, artisanal miners, farmers, nay every Zimbabwean, is now angry at this repressive and inept lot in government.
The regime has stolen elections; over eight million people are starving; they have stolen Covid-19 funds because they are corrupt while their cluelessness has seen biting poverty pervading the country amid a tough lockdown with no safety nets in this highly informal economy.
In our case, they have even pilfered a people’s party called the MDC Alliance, dubiously recalled the people’s elected MPs and councillors and given our funds to a pliable surrogate personified by Thoko-Zanu Khupe.They have worked very hard to make this nation angry.
We have reached that stage where as a nation we must now oblige their invitation to action. Indeed, the time has now come for every Zimbabwean to streetify their displeasure by going into the streets.
As a nation and as citizens, we have stuck to an orthodox script for far too long by transacting our politics in predictable and captured stadia such as the courts, the media, local government and Parliament, among other constricted platforms. We have tweeted our complaints and grievances ad infinitum , ad nauseum . But no one has listened.
At a personal level, I have no problem with innovative 21st century platforms such as twitter and other social media platforms consistent with this brave, digital age. But perhaps we must now de-eliticize this struggle by going back to the basics-to the street language that dictators like Emmerson Mnangagwa perfectly understand.
We must dismount from our high horses of elitism, abandon our laptops and resort to the basic language of rooftops and tree-tops to peacefully and Constitutionally make a sonorous call for the respect of citizen rights.
We must now support all calls for the legitimate and constitutional expression by the people. The party to which I belong has expressed its solidarity to any legitimate expression by despondent Zimbabweans, in this our nation where whole families are now surviving on less than US 35 cents a day.
We cannot individually be on twitter when collectively we are all on teeter—-tottering on the brink and struggling for a daily morsel.
We have to do more. We must not simply be cyber-activists, desktop revolutionaries and twitter gendarmes while avoiding the robust route our oppressors fear and that can change our tenuous lived circumstances.
We now need to “Luke” the Beast in the Eye.
If you are not angry enough, just take a peek again into the following abominable experience of the MDC Alliance trio of Joannah Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova. Maybe just maybe, one may get the motivation to join any loud but Constitutional expression by the despondent people of our land:
It is exactly 10:47 hrs on a serene Friday morning and the date is 15 May 2020. An ambulance screeches to an agonizing halt outside Parktown Hospital near Waterfalls, some 15 kilometers south of Harare.
A visibly traumatized female patient, face contorted and hair disheveled, is being helped out. Her face partially covered, the ambulance crew stretchers her out at breathtaking speed into the infirmary to avoid the desperate newshounds jostling for the prized photograph of this ghost-like figure visibly grimacing in pain.
It is clear the unfortunate woman in the ambulance is more desperate than the press corps. While the latter are stampeding for a simple scoop and a headline, the former is barely clinging to dear life!
It turns out the unfortunate woman at the mercy of the clicking cameras is Hon. Joanah Mamombe, the MP for Harare West. She has just had further scans and examinations done by a team of doctors in the city.
But the scary sight before us is starkly different from the affable, bubbly and beautiful legislator that our mortal eyes are accustomed to. Joanah is haggard and looks like an apparition, which is understandable given what she has gone through in the past 24 hours.
Already inside the hospital and wailing in agony are two other dedicated warriors for change, her colleagues Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova. The three MDC cadres were taken from inside a police station, driven to an unknown forest inside a fittingly black Datsun Wish vehicle where they were sexually abused, tortured and dumped some 70 kilometers away.
Theirs is a horrific tale of how they were taken from inside a police station, driven to a forest and taken into a pit where the solemn and despicable script of their predicament began.
Not only were they sexually abused. They had their breasts suckled by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s merchants of terror. Their anal regions were brutally pierced by gun bayonets while they were fed with a ghoulish faecal diet.
Yes, they were made to eat each others’ faeces and to drink each others’ urine by the regime’s morbid securocrats.
Now we are being told they faked all these things, including their own sexual abuse!
Now instead of the perpetrators facing justice, it is the three young women—the victims—who are before the courts!
Welcome to Zimbabwe’s Second Republic.
Indeed, welcome to our “new dispensation”. A dispensation that is shouting engagement but practically doing all it can to disengage from the rest of the civilized world!
With a government that sexually abuses women, including an Honourable Member of Parliament, who else can be accused of inviting the so-called sanctions?
From the pits in some unknown forest where many horrible and despicable things were done to them, they do not even remember much else. All they remember is that after what seemed like eternity, now with their clothes torn, they were dumped in the deathly quiet of the morning at some rural growth point where a sympathizer picked them up.
The place turned out to be the appropriately named Muchapondwa shops in Bindura South in Mashonaland Central province, some 70 kilometers away from the capital.
Muchapondwa is a Shona word which literally means “ you shall be killed .” This is the place where the three female MDC cadres were found dumped and left for dead by the regime’s merchants of death.
Muchapondwa—the place whose name has a deathly ring to it.
The route they took will never be known, as the Devil’s itinerary is always a closely guarded secret!
We shall never know whether the three brave cadres were taken along the Shamva road, past Denda shops after turning left at Chabwino, via Mupandira and Nyava shopping centers before arriving at Muchapondwa.
We shall never know whether these peddlers of violence chose to go via Mazowe road to Bindura before turning right past Trojan Mine, Manhenga, then Chiveso before dumping their brutalized human cargo at Muchapondwa.
Or whether these merchants of darkness used the more direct route via my beloved Domboshava, past my late mother Pelagia Makumbe’s homestead at Makumbe village, negotiating those dangerous and nervy curves at Cheza before crossing the dry Nyaure river to bundle out their unwilling passengers at Muchapondwa.
Whichever of these three routes they used, what is certain is that it was a route to national shame.
It is an indictment against this illegitimate regime that it could allow State-paid merchants of violence to abuse defenseless women a mere four days after Mothers’ Day; that day when the sanctity of feminine power is celebrated worldwide.
How could any sane person abuse and indignify women, including a revered Member of Parliament, barely 96 hours after the world has celebrated the chastity of women?
Nothing beats this barbarism, which is well beneath the sacred value of humanity— ubuntu .
The police owe this nation an explanation as to how these women were taken out of their custody. The police spokesperson Paul Nyathi had confirmed to a local daily that they had three women in their custody. Hours later, the ZRP tweeted that the women were no longer in their custody.
Someone must tell us what happened between the time of confirmation and the time of denial.
Who could have the temerity to abduct people from inside a police station, unless it was the police themselves who handed over these women to a more insidious State security unit? I am well aware that the police can hand you over to more ruthless goons.
Some 13 years ago, I was brutally assaulted and tortured for three continuous days together with several other party colleagues inside the infamous room 93 in the basement of the Law and Order section at Harare Central police station.
Yes, that infamous room at the misnamed Law and Order section where neither law nor order prevails!
Room 93 has visible blood stains on the walls—probably a trick to unsettle you psychologically. And I knew the guys who brutalized us for three continuous days without food and water were definitely not police.
But when the police hand you over and allow you to be taken out of their custody, as happened to the three female cadres, it can only be worse. I have a sneaking feeling that the police tweet announcing that the three were no longer in police custody was a feeble attempt to absolve themselves by letting the world know that the “prisoners” were now being held by a separate, more callous unit of the State. I still have the hunch that the tweet was a Pontius Pilate gesture by the police to wash their hands and absolve themselves from what was to come.
In case something happened to the three women, the police through their tweet might have been absolving themselves of any responsibility.
Yet ED as a person can’t absolve himself. Whether it was the police, the CIO or the army, it’s his government all the same so he must take full responsibility for what happened to these girls.
Listening to the girls’ sordid and horrific tale of abuse and torture is akin to listening to a story of death. Indeed, something inside them has died, judging by the trauma and fear that is still palpable in their eyes to this day. Their lives will never be the same again.
I still have the same feeling after my own traumatic experience as I still can’t stand the sound of banging doors. Any banging door makes me cringe as it is synonymous with the sound of the doors that were banged as a new set of torturers entered the room to show their expertise at dastardly acts. For me, the banging doors that signalled yet another session of torture were banged for three unforgettable days from Wednesday, 28 March to Saturday, 31 March 2007.
It must be said that SADC and Africa have let Zimbabweans down. Maybe these brothers and sisters of ours want first to literally see rivers of flowing blood in the country for them to appreciate that there is a monumental human rights crisis in Zimbabwe. Otherwise what will it take for drastic action to be taken against this deranged man on the citadel of power?
First it was August 1 2018, when this regime’s soldiers callously murdered six people in broad daylight. SADC and Africa maintained the silence of the grave.
Today, one of the widows of the slain six, Suspicious Kumire from Domboshava, is having to do menial jobs at Santa Heights private school, an opportunity given to her by the benevolent principal Mrs Mapfumo to enable her to raise fees for her two children that are enrolled there.
It is always a dispiriting sight to see this widowed mother and the hapless kids that have been orphaned by Mnangagwa’s guns. Yet the scarfed murderer lied to diplomats that his government was owning up to its culpability by looking after the orphans, in line with the recommendations of a Commission that he set up himself. And yet he has not complied with the recommendations and the situation on the ground is that the widows, widowers and orphans from the August 1 2018 violence are suffering,
Still, SADC and Africa have kept loudly quiet.
Then we saw more violence in January 2019 when several more innocent Zimbabweans were killed by State security agents. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, an independent Constitutional Commission, investigated and held the State liable for those murders.
Still, SADC and Africa have kept sonorously quiet.
Yet Article 4(h) of the constitutive Act of the African Union allows the continent to intervene in member States in respect of “ grave circumstances .”
What more “grave circumstances” is Africa waiting for when three innocent women, including a member of Parliament, are taken from police custody by State security agents, are sexually abused and made to eat their own faeces and drink their urine?
Article 4(o) of the same constitutive Act of the AU calls for the rejection of impunity on the continent. Yet we are seeing the ghastly and abominable version of the same impunity unfolding in Harare.
SADC and the whole of Africa have lost their voice. Not even a whimper of condemnation!
Maybe we are expecting too much from our African leaders. These are the same guys who on 27 June 2014 came up with the Malabo protocol.
The protocol, aimed at expanding the remit and mandate of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, contains Article 46 A in which sitting African Heads of State have made themselves immune from any manner of investigation and prosecution while still in office.
The world has equally let us down. By now the International Criminal Court would have pounced on Mnangagwa for gross crimes against humanity, as it has done before when it intervened in countries that are non-State parties to the Rome Statute.
Yet the politics of the referral system, the duplicity of the big powers, the geopolitics of the UN Security Council, including the abuse of the veto power, will mean that the deranged Mnangagwa will be shielded by his known allies in the P5 from prosecution.
ED and his merchants of violence have found convenient succour and a perfect sanatorium in the porous and imperfect international criminal justice system.
Through the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the world has made a promise to the vulnerable and the violated, a promise that it is failing to fulfill—the promise that the world will not stand by and watch while rogue regimes run amok. Yet people are being killed and abused in Zimbabwe and no one cares a hoot.
We are simply on our own and others have suggested that if this regime has run amok, then maybe we must also run amok.
With his hands dripping in the blood of the country’s citizens, Mnangagwa still bestrides the country like an untouchable Colossus, well aware of the weaknesses of international criminal law. After all, nothing has happened to him, notwithstanding an unchecked and an unparalleled blood-soaked legacy that stretches back to Gukurahundi, if not before.
Covid-19 is real and the casualty figures keep going up. But the repression is also going up and pained by government that has become a danger to its own citizens, others are even suggesting that perhaps it is time for us to ignore this lockdown. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to lock up our courage, buckle ourselves up and confront this regime.
True, there is a pandemic out there but I truly understand the impatience when some of my troubled fellow citizens posit that this regime is a worse virus than Covid-19. They can come to your house and rape your wife or kill your children, even if you are in isolation and you have numerous masks and sanitizers.
No one is safe from this corona government!
Indeed, no mask or sanitizer can protect you from this murderous regime of Emmerson Mnangagwa. Joanna, Cecilia and Netsai had their PPE but they still could not mask themselves from the naked brutality of this despotic regime. Corona or no corona, we are at the mercy of these vampires in government.
You could presume yourselves to be safe from Covid-19 but there is no guarantee you are safe from this scarfed corona virus that is illegitimately holding the levers of the State.
No leader voted by the people can murder, rape and abuse in this horrendous way the same citizenry that elected them into office. This callousness betrays his presence at the helm of the State has nothing to do with the people.
Skeptics have even argued that it may be better to die of Covid-19 in a gathering in the streets than to be plucked away alone to your abuse and to your death from what you may presume to be the safety of your home.
These skeptics are now even arguing that it may be worthwhile dying while in gathering to confront this regime than remaining locked down in your home only to be confronted yourself by this murderous lot.
Does anyone think that these thugs were maintaining social distance when they were abusing these women? A government that rapes and sexually abuses women?
Indeed, Mnangagwa is simply worse than the corona virus.
What happened to these three grave cadres from our own version of Hitler’s Third Reich could happen to you, your sister or your daughter. Pastor Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran pastor, had this to say about Hitler during the horrific era of the Third Reich:
“ First , they came for the Socialists , and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist .
Then they came for the trade unionists , and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist .
Then they came for the Jews , and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew .
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me .”
So in the same vein, tomorrow, Mnangagwa’s regime may be coming for you. And there may be no one left to speak for you.
This regime has angered everyone. Everyone is suffering except Mnangagwa and his inner circle who are fleecing the country through avarice, unbridled sleaze and corruption.
They have fractured livelihoods. They have decimated the burgeoning informal sector through Murambatsvina 2.
Any action that may take place in this country will have happened at the instigation of no one else but the regime itself.
Their provocative acts have wittingly and unwittingly mobilised all of us to Constitutionally express ourselves.
Only recently, they called the equally suffering police to go for three weeks training in Ntabazinduna and in Shamva as a way of quelling legitimate public expression.
But nothing must stop us. After this justifiable lockdown, which the regime is abusing to terrorise citizens, it may be the time to streetify our grievances. The Constitution allows it!
Future generations will judge us harshly if we remain silent amid these gross human rights abuses. We must do something robust that will enable us to stare history in the face with the pride and conviction that as a people, we boisterously expressed ourselves in a significant way when the moment demanded it.
Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary. for Presidential Affairs in the MDC-Alliance led by the people’s President Advocate Nelson Chamisa . He writes here in his personal capacity . You can interact with him on Facebook or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo .