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The human rights record of any political regime is an indictment of the particular strain of tolerance it shows to the world. Its treatment of its opposition is perhaps the indicator that measures its fear that it can and will be deposed in the very near future.
The paranoia surrounding the monitoring of all telephone calls international and domestic are a further precursor that there is a great deal going on in a country that once fed most of its people easily and exported food and sustenance to its neighbours that the regime there would rather keep hidden rather than let it be known on the grapevine of international affairs that they have an issue with anything that might conceivably now or at any time in the past been called dissent. The control and suppression of email traffic has also tightened the coiled spring that has been in government in Zimbabwe since Zanu PF gained power. Modern technology does not lend itself to secrecy and the lid that has been securely fastened upon the simmering cauldron that was once a land of milk and honey is beginning to rise under the extreme pressure of a state that is in brutal control of a once gentle country. Toward the end of a colonial rule by Britain the white minority declared UDI [Unilateral Declaration of Independence] the second colony to do so the first being what became the USA. The country was then called Rhodesia [formerly Southern Rhodesia] and whilst it was in dissent with its colonial power it also had to contend with insurgency from within. The Chinese funded rebels from bases in Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia finally gained the upper hand and took power in what was to become Zimbabwe; the leader of the insurgents was Robert Mugabe a man who owed much to the communist teachings of Mao Tse Tung. In the ensuing years the development of the political regime attempted to apply the principles learned in China to the then prosperous country but using the inherent violence of Africa. The country has been in decline ever since.
The oppression of the political masters of Zimbabwe became increasingly more restrictive when a law was passed enabling the state to monitor all telephone calls both domestic and international. The advent of personal computers presented a further problem when it was realised that it was a medium far more powerful than any telephone conversation because whereas a telephone call was often one-to-one communication a computer could send the same message to a million machines at the click of a mouse, Chinese technology was brought to bear to restrict this traffic too.
The exodus of humanity leaving Zimbabwe understandably grew but with inflation now approaching seventeen hundred percent travel is so expensive that for many Zimbabweans leaving the country walking is the only option. Exit documents are also very difficult to obtain not least because the currency is virtually worthless so payment for such documents often involves handing over a block of banknotes the size of a house brick, that takes no account of the “Bribe” to ensure that the officials full attention is focused on preparing the documents. The unemployment situation in Zimbabwe has now reached 80% and continues to rise so it is extremely unlikely that there will be long queues for the “Right papers”. In a country where four fifths of the population is at starvation level it is not surprising that its people are desperate to leave and if they cannot afford to pay for the travel or cannot get exit documents then in the interests of their own survival and that of their families they walk to the border.
The Zimbabwe police have many entry requirements but it seems that knowledge of Zimbabwean geography is not one of them. Units of the Zimbabwe police await the fleeing train of humanity in all of the surrounding countries in towns close to the border, their mission is to recapture any Zimbabweans leaving their country and put them onto trucks to be sent back. These units are known to the local authorities where they operate but their presence and operations are never acknowledged. The captured
Expatriates are often sent to “Interrogation” centres and disappear without trace; the centres are under the control of the Zimbabwe police.
To say that the country produces no food would be misleading because it does produce some, a walk along the greengrocery shelves of Tesco or Sainsbury’s will reveal produce emanating from Zimbabwe. The farms where such food is produced were once owned by successful white farmers but as the land was returned to the black African much of it reverted to scrub because the expertise to manage it had gone. Several years ago there was a program in place that drove the farmers out and returned the land to what was called “The veterans” it was unsuccessful and much of that land is now owned by high ranking political party members, senior army officers and members of the Zimbabwe police. It has made little difference, they cannot make the land produce food either and the decline goes on.
As might be expected in such a place political meetings are banned and if one uses the subterfuge of a “Prayer meeting” its true purpose is far from secret. The political opposition in Zimbabwe is brutally suppressed. Certain news gathering organisations are banned from the country among them the BBC so any news from this claustrophobic corner of Africa comes to the UK via other media who still report from there or through South Africa.
Last week a Prayer meeting in Harare` was attended by Morgan Tsvangari [leader of the MDC] a political opponent of Robert Mugabe. The meeting attracted a good attendance from members of the opposition MDC [Movement for Democratic Change]. The meeting was peaceful until the Zimbabwe police arrived to beak up what they thought was a political meeting. The use of water cannon, teargas, CS gas, guns, clubs and the uncontrollable ranks of the Zimbabwe police left many people badly beaten at least five people shot, one shot dead and hundreds of arrests. One of those arrested was Morgan Tsvangari. Whilst in the custody of the Zimbabwe police the prominent opponent of the current regime in Zimbabwe was beaten mercilessly on several occasions resulting in hospitalisation. The savagery of the beatings was a graphic depiction of Robert Mugabe’s intolerance of any opposition to his rule and a warning to any other would be opponents that dissent is not an option under his presidency. At the hospital in Harare` doctors would not confirm that Tsvangari had a fractured skull but it is widely believed that their reticence was born more from a requirement for self preservation than the service of truth, the pictures speak volumes.
It might be thought that the incident was an unfortunate episode, one of far too many and not the normal way that the opposition is treated in Zimbabwe but when the MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa tried to leave Zimbabwe on Sunday 18th March to attend a conference he too was attacked in the departure lounge at Harare` airport by men with iron bars, they rained blows upon his head and then ran away. It is thought that the attack originated from sources within the Zimbabwe police though there is no proof and it is obviously denied. Chamisa is now in a private hospital in Harare` under armed guard, his condition is critical.
On Saturday 17th March there were more arrests at Harare` airport, Arthur Mutambara another leader of the MDC and two MDC activists Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland.
Tsvangari, Chamisa, Mutambara, Kwinjeh and Holland were all at that same meeting in Highfield, Harare` some were arrested and released, at least one is the subject of a high court order forbidding the Zimbabwe police from re-arresting upon the same charge yet they have done so.
Twenty seven years ago Robert Mugabe fought in the bush to remove a “White minority government” he has replaced it with a “Black minority government” but with a difference, this government brooks no opposition, hold power at the point of a gun, permits no dissenting opinion, ignores its starving people with impunity and allows thugs to wear the uniform of police officers who wield such draconian control that would not be out of place in Stalinist Russia, Maoist China or even Pol Pot’s Cambodia. He and his government have become the beast that they sought to slay.
As the tragedy of Zimbabwe unfolds the words of his mentor seem apt, ”Democracy comes from the barrel of a gun” and an empty stomach carries a far more ruthless gun than a full one. It is time to put an end to the nightmare of Zimbabwe and no amount of suppression can now stop what has already begun. The face of Morgan Tsvangari has provided a recruiting poster that will unite all factions of the opposition to Mugabe’s idea of freedom.
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