THE reported police assault on the lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, on October 12 (Independent, October 17) made nauseating reading. It reminded me of the assault at a police station a few months ago of
another lawyer, Gugulethu Moyo.
In that incident, a very high profile female personality was allegedly involved, but the assault did take place in front of male police officers, which makes you wonder.
By now, the predominantly male police force has garnered a reputation for beating up people on the flimsiest pretext. But beating up women smacks of some weird sexist hang-up.
You are tempted to advise them to seek the help of a modern-day Sigmund Freud. Would he suggest they probably hated their mother or were humiliated by their sister because she was so much better at everything – including soccer – than they were?
But it could have a lot to do with the reputation of the government itself – you disagree with them and they will thump you very hard, one way or the other.
What amazes many people, Zimbabweans and foreigners alike, is the almost saintly equanimity with which Zimbabweans react to such violence.
For instance, you would have expected women, from Victoria Falls to Vumba, to march in protest against the brutal assault on Mtetwa.
She is not built like Shuvai Mahofa, whose physical proportions would probably make even the toughest police officer hesitate before laying a finger on her – even if she was not a big shot in the government.
Most critics don’t believe that what deters Zimbabweans from reacting with disgust at such official brutality is their conviction that the government is right and they are wrong. They believe it is something far more complex than this.
The people know they are right and the government is wrong. Where they get a bit fuzzy in conviction is whether, if they reacted as they ought to, they wouldn’t end up as a lone voice shouting in the wilderness?
It’s been called the docility, the timidity and the spinelessness of the people of Zimbabwe. I don’t want to sound facetious here, but perhaps what all of us need to remember is that if everybody had acted out of their own individual fear of the unknown during the struggle, we would never have won independence.
Beatrice Mtetwa’s case is a microcosm of the sickness among us.