Friday, June 19, 2009

Beatings – More of them

I am intrigued by stories of new ‘beatings’ popping up in the local and international press this week. The first which appeared on the 18th June is about police training and reported in The (ZANU PF) Herald: “Police trainers have been warned against recording videos of the force’s rigorous training sessions using their cellphones and selling the clips on the Internet. This habit is tantamount to selling out of one’s country and thereby derailing the efforts of the organisation to maintain its good image. Those who engage in such corrupt activities would be removed from the force”. So said that notorious policeman, Wayne Bvudzijena.

A day later the plot thickens. “Police are investigating the authenticity of a video clip circulating among members of the public depicting trainers beating up recruits as "part of training". The video clip shows more than 5 police trainers beating up recruits, mostly men, while saying that this was part of the training. In the video, the recruits are being beaten on the back one-at-a-time with sticks, while the others stand in a queue waiting for their turn. After assaulting one of the recruits, one of the trainers is heard saying, "This is now Syllabus E."

So I went to YouTube and had a look. Looked very authentic to me! No wonder the Commissioner and his cohorts are upset.

In Bulawayo on Wednesday the 17th June WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) held a demonstration. It was not long before the marchers were attacked by the police and several of them beaten and arrested. Then on Thursday another demonstration in Harare received the same treatment. Not only were some of the marchers beaten, so were at least three journalists who were also arrested.

What is about this country and the norms that seem to have developed in policing? Are these societal norms a throwback to the days before colonialism and perhaps during that period? Did the Shona people beat their own who ‘transgressed’? Were ‘suspects’ and political rivals kidnapped and held incommunicado for weeks on end, beaten on the soles of their feet and buttocks? Were judicial orders ignored?

Why is nothing being done by the GNU to reverse this kind of treatment? Geoff Hill’s book “What Happens After Mugabe?” written some two years ago suggests that there is a groundswell of opinion from those Zimbabweans exiled in South Africa to seek ‘revenge’ when ‘the day of reckoning’ finally comes. There have been suggestions that Zimbabwe needs a period of ‘National Healing’ but no-one seems to want to do anything about it, and instead the beatings, the arrests, the threats go on.

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan has been on a short visit and has made yet another damning report of the lack of civil liberties in Zimbabwe. In response Vice President Joice Mujuru told her that Zimbabweans had their own ways of resolving their differences, with government having already started a national healing programme.
What ‘National Healing Programme’ is she talking about? Probably the same one that has been talked about before but nothing, as usual, been done.

Let us remember what happened only last year, how over 100 members of the MDC were MURDERED in cold blood. What has been done about the perpetrators, most of who are known by name?

Nothing is being done. It is not nearly as high on the agenda as ‘seeking removal of illegal economic sanctions’ which is really ZANU PF’s desire to find more loot to loot. Both ZANU PF and MDC are culpable here.

The real tragedy of Zimbabwe is the cultural norms that developed during the Rhodesian Bush War – or as some call it, the Second Chimurenga. ZANLA and ZIPRA, the military wings of what is today ZANU PF, went off to China and Moscow and learned their new trade from Mao Tse Tung and Joseph Stalin. The majority of today’s leadership were only teenagers then, abducted from schools, taken away to Tanzania and ‘conscientised’ by the leadership in much the same form as the police recruits I saw being beaten on YouTube. They returned to Rhodesia with an AK 47 slung across their shoulders and dealt out mayhem and death in horrific circumstances to those they labelled ‘sell-outs’. I know. I saw the beaten and mutilated bodies in the 1970’s with my own eyes. No cellphone camera’s in those days to back me up, but believe me, my mind at the gruesome sights is as clear as any cellphone camera image can portray today.

ZANU PF brought this culture to Zimbabwe and imposed it first on the Matabele people in the early 1980’s. Later, when their power was threatened by the MDC and the white farmers who backed the MDC financially, they re-visited this culture on the MDC, the white farmers and ordinary Zimbabweans who got in the way.

And they still do it today – with the usual impunity, while screaming and shouting at Obama, Brown and the rest of the west to ‘lift illegal economic sanctions’.

When will they learn?

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