OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: A letter from the diaspora

A friend phoned from Zimbabwe on Wednesday to enquire if I was OK. He had been listening to the news and heard that England was over-run by rioters. No doubt his anxiety on my behalf was influenced by Robert Mugabe’s references to the UK disturbances in his speeches over the two day public holiday in Zimbabwe. The Dear Leader can never resist the temptation to crow over the UK’s troubles, which were certainly very serious.

“Solve your own problems” Mugabe told the UK (and the USA) “and leave us alone.” Of course, he tied it all in with sanctions which he claims are the cause of all Zimbabwe’s problems. He has called for ‘peace and tolerance’ but has consistently refused to rein in the army which is terrorising villagers up and down the country. Neither do the Zanu PF thugs take any notice of his calls for peace as we see in the continuing attacks on MDC followers. The activities of the Chipangano gang in Mbare reached new levels of horror this week with hot oil being thrown into the face of an MDC member. The identity of some of the assailants is known to the police but no arrests have been made. That, it seems, is Zanu PF’s definition of tolerance.

On Defence Forces day Mugabe announced that Zimbabwe will have its first Military University, built and paid for by the Chinese. Just why Zimbabwe needs such an establishment is unclear. Mugabe would have us believe that Zimbabwe is under threat from ‘the western military alliance’ as he calls it. It’s the same old slogan, ‘Zimbabwe will never be a colony again’ that we heard back at the last election and the one before that.

When parliament says it will debate the question of military intervention in politics, Mugabe declares that parliament has no business discussing the conduct of the security forces; what he means is that only HE as the Commander in Chief has the power to determine the actions of the military.

The BBC’s Panorama on Chiadzwa and the revelations about torture camps run by the military certainly hit a raw nerve in the Zanu PF hierarchy. “Cheap BBC propaganda” jeered Emmerson Mnangagwa; that from a regime which excels in propaganda of the very cheapest kind! I watched the programme and found it rather tame. What it did, however, was to raise questions about the EU.’s decision to allow some of the Chiadzwa diamonds to be sold on world markets.

The ICC has since said that the evidence from Chiadzwa could be used to prosecute Robert Mugabe, who is named along with Constantine Chiwenga and Perence Shiri as the three men ordering the murders at Chiadzwa. The likelihood of such prosecutions happening is very remote but together with Amnesty’s call for the UN to investigate human rights abuses by the security sector it serves to remind the Mugabe regime that the world is watching – even though it fails to act.

As Moletsi Mbeki pointed out, SADC too, has so far failed to act on the deteriorating Zimbabwean situation. It’s been going on for such a long time. Apparently, no one inside or out of Africa is prepared to take on Mugabe. What they’re afraid of is not clear; perhaps it is the fact that he has the backing of the military.

For ordinary Zimbabweans, the sight of soldiers rampaging through villages and townships inspires very real fear, knowing as they do what the soldiers are capable of – but fear is not the same as respect. The army’s boasts that it has ‘Liberation credentials’ and I was struck by the relevance of an incident that took place in Masvingo on Heroes Day. MDC supporters wearing party regalia attended the ceremony and all of them were subjected to violence by Zanu PF thugs.

In a particularly disgraceful display a woman was stripped naked and savagely beaten. And the reason for the beatings? A group of war veterans accused the MDC people of ‘showing disrespect’ to war veterans. Respect surely has to be earned; it’s hard to see how beating people senseless is likely to earn anything other than hatred and resentment.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson author of the Dube books, detective stories with a political twist set in Zimbabwe and available from Lulu.com

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