Grrrrrrrrr Go get ’em, Tiger

Look at the website at the index of articles and images of
post-election 2008 violence in Zimbabwe. Look at the pictures of opposition
workers, of men, women and children who were singled out by members of a
government army patrol and youth militia and beaten, battered, burnt and
tortured, and then tell me that any action taken against Robert Mugabe would
be an "extreme measure".

Look at the pictures of the children with their eyeballs beaten out, or the

men and women so tortured that entire chunks of their buttocks have fallen

off. Look at the pictures of wounds unable to heal because of the

withholding of medical treatment. Look at the burnt faces and bodies, the

whipped backs, the broken limbs, the burnt-out homes and displaced citizens.

And then after you recover from the sickening feeling, tell me why Robert

Mugabe should continue to enjoy the title “The Right Honourable” and

membership in the Order of Jamaica.

I’ve tried to think of a convincing justification for the prime minister’s

sentiment that the current situation in Zimbabwe doesn’t warrant the

Jamaican Government stripping President Robert Mugabe of the Order of

Jamaica – the fourth highest rank in our national honours system – awarded

to him.

Perhaps, I thought, because the honour was conferred on Mugabe during a

former prime minister’s time, the matter would require some formal

discussion with P J Patterson as to how and when to strip Mugabe of the

title. But then I thought, no, Golding should not confer with Patterson

about the symbolic punishing of the leader of a country under whose watch

the extermination of members of its citizenry occurred because of their

opposing political views.

Mugabe was awarded the OJ in 1996 “in recognition of his outstanding

contribution to the fight for liberation and the overthrow of apartheid in

Southern Africa, and his distinct leadership in the pursuit of freedom and

human development throughout the African continent”. At great risk to his

own life, during the 1970s, Mugabe led a seven-year guerilla war against the

white-minority rule of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and sought and won the

freedom and independence of his people in 1980. He was hailed a hero and a

freedom fighter and lauded internationally.

Perhaps, I thought, Golding’s rationale might be that the honour should

remain with Mugabe because it represents a particular period of Mugabe’s

life and his significant struggle on behalf of the Rhodesian people during

that time. But no, seven years of struggle is no pay forward for 28 years of

the worst kind of dictatorship.

Granted, Mugabe’s greatest achievement was in educating his people –

Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa at 85 per cent of the

population – but it takes very different skills to manage a war than it does

to run a country, and in a bid to hold on to power he has derailed democracy

by rigging elections, muzzling the press, and bulldozing the homes of

supporters of the political opposition.

He has used food as a weapon against opposition supporters and has turned a

blind eye to the state’s brutally violent crackdown on dissent. And finally

he has wrecked the Zimbabwean economy to the point where at least 80 per

cent of Zimbabweans are now living below the poverty line. As educated as

the Zimbabwean people are, primal fear and hunger even kept them from

exercising their franchise.

I can only reason that Prime Minister Golding won’t interfere in the

politics of another country because he feels he must set his own house in

order first and seek to bring to justice those home-grown thugs who continue

to murder the Jamaican people.

To that end, I welcome the Government’s announcement of harsh penalties in

the roll-out of the anti-crime plan. And I stand firmly in the prime

minister’s corner when he says, “I listen to some of my friends in the human

rights organisations and I get a sense that what we really ought to do is go

in with some powder puffs, and we really ought to sit down and engage these

people to persuade them that we must stop killing off people.”

Bravo, prime minister. When the human rights activists were busy, as he put

it, “picking out” what interests they were going to pursue, some 27 of our

own people lay dead and dying in West Kingston, with their skin peeling away

at their bodies, and their flesh being eaten by dogs.

Grrrrrrrrrrr. Go get ’em, tiger!

Jamaica Times

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