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
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 TimesPost published in: News