ZIMBABWE - LETTER FROM THE DIASPORA !
30th August 2008.
I have long believed that a politically compromised police force is one of the root causes of the collapse of law and order in Zimbabwe. Without impartial policing and an independent judiciary the citizen has nowhere to turn for protection. From 2000 onwards we have seen that the so-called forces of law and order are tilted in one direction only and that is to uphold the political imperatives of the ruling party. The white farmers were the first victims; as their properties were violently invaded and they were driven from their homes, the police refused to intervene on the grounds that it was 'political' and they could do nothing. Even when there were violent physical assaults and murder, the police failed to act and, in many cases actively supported the farm invaders. As Mugabe's political fortunes began to wane he resorted more and more to racist rhetoric, "Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy," he said at the time.
I was living in Murehwa when the first white farmer, David Stevens, was murdered and five of his fellow farmers brutally assaulted as they attempted to rescue their friend. It was April 2000 ( See Cathy Buckle's Beyond Tears for an account; she calls it 'The weekend from Hell') The news of that murder went all round the world; indeed I heard of it first on the World Service of the BBC. Robert Mugabe, of course, was quick to respond with his now familiar accusation of western racism. One white man is killed and the western media goes into a frenzy he claimed. On the ground in Murehwa we all knew that it was the police who had handed the white farmers over to the war veterans. We knew the names of the killers and as the days went by after the incident we saw those very men walking freely about the township. They had acted with complete impunity knowing that no policemen would dare to lay a finger on them. That was where it all began, the politicisation of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, a body of men and women who had once been a highly trained and disciplined force, trusted by the people as the guardians of law and order. Now, eight years later, the ZRP has become no better than an arm of the ruling party. Once called 'the dogs of Ian Smith' they serve a different master now but one no less ruthless and they carry out his bidding with complete disregard for human rights or considerations of justice and the law. This week we had another example of police complicity when they stormed a perfectly lawful AGM of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition at a hotel in the middle of Harare and with a truck full of armed cops disbanded the meeting on the grounds that it was an illegal gathering. Earlier in the week the police had arrested five democratically elected MDC MPs as they were about to enter the parliament building to attend the opening of the new session. In a blatant attempt to prevent MDC members from voting for a new Speaker of the House, the police had once again proved their total partiality to Zanu PF. The democratic will of the people means nothing to them, the MOU means nothing to them, they continue their blind allegiance to Robert Mugabe and his party of thugs and thieves while the country slides further and further into the abyss. With police and judges corrupted by Mugabe's patronage and croneyism, law and order collapses. Traditional chiefs, once the upholders of customary law in the rural areas have been subverted too and there is nowhere to turn for justice. Rural or urban, black or white, it makes no difference if you are opposed to Mugabe and Zanu PF you are 'the enemy within' and the police will deal with you accordingly.
Ironic then that when Kirsty Coventry returned to Zimbabwe with her gold and silver medals this week she was treated as a heroine despite the colour of her skin. There was a victory parade through the streets of Harare and a banquet in her honour. Mugabe congratulated her 'most heartily on that heroic performance' Hypocrisy or just political expediency on the Old Man's part? The truth is that he is using Coventry's victory because he thinks it reflects well on him and his government; he fails to acknowledge that Coventry went to the hated US to train for her medals so utterly desperate are conditions in her own country. Accompanied no doubt by a police escort the white Olympian is honoured and feted by a man who will do anything to prove that the country is prospering under his leadership despite the fact that he said only this week after the State Opening of Parliament that his cabinet was to be restructured because, in his own words, "This cabinet I had was the worst in history - most of the ministers were unreliable - incompetent and spent time attending to their own businesses. Many abused their power to deny people food." (Rich, coming from the man who has banned NGO's distributing food aid!) Perhaps he has forgotten that he appointed the cabinet in the first place - the same way he extended Police Commissioner Chihuri's term of office three times thus ensuring a sickeningly compliant police force whose only concern appears to be propping up Mugabe's rotten regime while the real criminals stalk the corridors of power. Will they ever be brought to justice?
Yours in the (continuing) struggle. PH