On a few days away, heading south from the capital, the view from the window is a Zimbabwe that is hot and dry and golden brown. Rivers that were churning and thundering, overflowing their banks and breaking bridges just three or four months ago are again dry, littered with rocks and boulders and filled with deep yellow sand. The grass everywhere is very tall and completely dry, brittle and golden. Every day we hold our breath waiting for the inevitable fires that will this year have enormous amounts of fuel to feed their flames. Out in the hot and scratchy bush the dust is thick, red and choking; the deciduous trees are losing their leaves fast and if you are lucky you may see a magnificent Zimbabwe Aloe (Aloe Excelsa) in full flower, towering higher than many of the trees, a beacon of red in a golden landscape.
Returning to ‘civilization’ newspaper reports rapidly bring you back to what has become our often un-civilized life in Zimbabwe. On the front page a picture of a woman in South Africa who had allegedly been assaulted by Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Mrs Mugabe. The shame of these scandals, which are growing in frequency, are making a laughing stock of Zimbabwe; scandals of privileged youngsters living an unchecked life filled with excesses and outrageous extravagance while ordinary people are scrabbling in the dust to survive back in Zimbabwe.
While the international media scrutinize attempts by South Africa to hold Mrs Mugabe accountable, there is an even more disturbing report going almost un-noticed; a report far more serious, more worrying than a First Lady and an assault in a luxury South African hotel. In his speech on Heroes Day, President Mugabe said that there would be no prosecution for the people who killed white farmers in Zimbabwe’s “fast track land reform programme.” As unbelievable as it is there has yet to be any accountability for the perpetrators of murders committed in the name of land invasions since 2000 or of thousands of other crimes committed under that same smoke screen. Crimes that include rape, arson, theft, torture and murder. Crimes committed against black and white Zimbabweans.
President Mugabe said: “Yes, we have those who were killed when they resisted. We will never prosecute those who killed them. I ask why we should arrest them.”
President Mugabe did not give examples of farmers murdered for “resisting” the theft of their private property, homes and life’s work. He did not mention the case, for example, of David Stevens, the first commercial farmer murdered in April 2000 who was abducted by war veterans, handcuffed and taken to the War Veterans Headquarters in Murehwa. There he was beaten and assaulted and later taken into the bush where he and another farmer, both handcuffed, were assaulted by numerous people who used “fists, feet, sticks, stones, fan belts and wire rods. “ Shortly afterwards David Stevens was shot and killed. Can you call it resistance when you are handcuffed, lynched and being beaten on all sides? What about justice, the law, the courts and due process?
This single eye witness account is one of thousands of stories of hell and horror perpetrated against black and white Zimbabweans which continue to haunt our nation nearly two decades after land invasions began. Some of us are ourselves victims or witnessed the events, saw thousands of traumatized people left homeless, jobless or mourning the deaths of loved ones in horrific political violence and brutal farm invasions since 2000.
What kind of an example is it to the youth of Zimbabwe to absolve murderers of white people? What about the thousands of black people who were brutalized and lost everything in land invasions and the thousands murdered in political violence in the same time period? It doesn’t matter if we are black or white, our blood is the same colour and we are all entitled to justice and protection under our country’s Constitution. Until the perpetrators of crimes are held to account, whatever the skin colour of them or their victims, Zimbabwe will not be able to move forward, regardless of this blanket “immunity” given by our 93 year old President. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.