Yesterday was another bleak day for Zimbabwe and her people. Yet again, the streets of Harare were filled with unarmed, running and screaming people, being chased by riot police using their baton sticks again and again. There was an early but unconfirmed report of one person being killed by police, but I spent much of the day watching footage of the riots and cringing inwardly when people who fell down were repeatedly beaten on the tarmac where they landed. One middle-aged lady was filmed on the ground and desperately trying to get away from two policemen who were beating and kicking her. Demonstrators and bystanders sitting on the pavements were also beaten for no apparent reason. There were no cars being stoned, no tyres being burned, no shops being looted and no signs of any violence from the demonstrators, making the reaction of the police all the more reprehensible.
In the week running up to the demonstration. eighteen political activists and MDC officials were abducted and tortured ahead of the planned and announced in advance ‘March for Change.’ It was the same scenario as in the days of Robert Mugabe and the days when I reported on farm invasions for the Sunday Express. Zimbabwean contacts and friends have sent me accounts of armed men coming at night, people being abducted and taken away in unmarked vehicles, then badly beaten on the soles of their feet before being left helpless on roadsides. Others have simply disappeared.
There was an oblique warning of the events to come earlier in the week. Speaking at Monday’s Heroes’ Day events, President Mnangagwa said, “Government is finalizing special remuneration packages for the men and women in uniform, the military salary concept, and other incentives to cushion them from the hardships that have affected the country’s workers.”
With that promise in mind, it is little wonder that the police force who I was once so proud to serve laid into innocent demonstrators with such enthusiastic brutality.
Since the 30th July 2018 when Mnangagwa was officially elected president, Zimbabweans have been living in a state of continual, daily deterioration marked by anxiety, fear, and chronic economic hardship. Those poor souls who have managed to get together a few US dollars and put them into banks, building societies or other financial institutions have seen them shamefully and illegally converted by the government into Zimbabwe bond dollars, which are basically coloured pieces of worthless paper. In fact, the bond dollars have lost ninety-eight percent of their value in just twenty weeks. Ordinary citizens can’t afford medical treatment and medicines anymore; fuel prices have gone up seven times this year and food prices have quadrupled and are still rising daily. Only this week, the price of fuel rocketed to $9.09 per litre. At current exchange rates, that amounts to £7.53. There would be riots if fuel cost that much in Britain.
This week the World Food Programme said that nearly two and a half million people in rural Zimbabwe need emergency food aid and this number will increase to five and a half million in the next month or two. The government estimates another two and a half million people in urban areas also require food aid, bringing the total to almost eight million – over half of the total population. A WFP spokesman said, “We are talking about people who truly are marching towards starvation if we are not here to help them.”
Yesterday in Harare, people already marching towards starvation, also marched towards baton sticks and extreme violence. They knew it too but bravely stood up to the pain of being beaten with those baton sticks, which are ostensibly truncheons, but in fact are long cudgels that cause a great deal of damage.
I expected some form of outcry from Britain and other western governments but on the BBC news last evening there was a twenty-second clip showing Zimbabweans – almost all of them men – at an ‘illegal demonstration in Harare’ being led away by remarkably controlled and non-violent cops. Needless to say I have found nothing in the newspapers this morning!
Wake up Britain. This is a land that your ancestors converted from virgin bush into a prosperous country that was given away to corrupt despots like Mugabe and Mnangagwa by the generation of British politicians immediately before the current load of squabbling schoolkids in Westminster.
Britain has been good to me and I am grateful for that, but Zimbabwe is my home and I feel a deep sense of shame that the people there are being hung out to dry by the people of Britain.
Unfortunately at my advanced age, all I can do is rant and write to the newspapers but if enough of us do that, something might – and only ‘might’ I’m afraid – get done to curb the excesses of the Zimbabwean government.
Although I long for Mnangagwa and his cronies to be brought to book, (The Hague perhaps?) I know in my heart that it won’t happen. We live in a self-pitying rather than compassionate world I’m afraid and a few – a very few – British politicians feel a deep sense of shame at what their predecessors have done to innocent people.
If they were to express that shame in any way, they would offend the great unwashed of the present snowflake generation.
Stop the world please. I am deeply ashamed of it and want to get off.