By RES Cook
“WHAT the accused persons did brought undue hardship to the masses of Zimbabwe,” said Harare magistrate Faith Mushore when she sentenced two senior executive
s of Lobels Bakery to an effective four months in prison.
What was their heinous crime deserving of such a reprimand and punishment? Raising the price of a loaf of bread from $185 to $300 without government permission!
Will the hitherto gutless so-called “captains of industry” now be prepared to stand up and denounce the regime that has destroyed the business environment and is now prepared to jail business executives for trying to survive? Don’t count on it.
It is several years since I first mentioned Pastor Neimoller’s famous saying about Hitler’s Nazis: “They first came for the communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, etc.”
Re-writing Pastor Neimoller’s statement to fit the Zimbabwean situation involves constant updating from the Ndebeles in the early 1980s to the latest targets of Zanu PF in 2006 — the business executives.
A pity that Zimbabweans who have so far escaped the net still simplistically believe that they can continue to survive by their silent acceptance of and acquiescence in the destruction and oppression that is all around them.
They would do well to heed the final words of Pastor Neimoller’s statement: “Then they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
However, the imprisonment of the Lobels executives may offer a glimmer of hope for those struggling to bring about peaceful change in Zimbabwe.
If “bringing undue hardship to the masses of Zimbabwe” is a criminal offence worthy of jail time, then I would respectfully suggest that the learned magistrate has suggested a solution to Zimbabwe’s biggest “challenge” (that of removing this regime from office).
The only problem might be in determining appropriate sentences.
If raising the price of a loaf of bread by $115 is deserving of four months’ imprisonment, what would be an appropriate sentence for the wholesale destruction of the economy?
* RES Cook writes from Harare.