By Rashweat Mukundu
THE recent seizure of travel documents of Zimbabwe Independent and Standard newspapers publisher, Trevor Ncube and former MDC MP Paul Themba Nyathi is one of the indicators of how governm
ent-orchestrated repression has made another turn for the worst.
Since 2000, we have all seen a well-planned onslaught on the very basic rights of Zimbabwean citizens from the disrespect of court rulings, political violence and intimidation, and passage of repressive laws, similar to the by-gone Rhodesia.
The message since 2000 has been consistent: that no one must oppose the Zanu PF-led government.
While political repression in Zimbabwe has its roots in the immediate post-Independence era, one can argue that since 2000, repression was made policy and state resources have been abused towards this end.
Zanu PF’s political survival project takes no prisoners as we have seen with the closure of four newspapers in a space of three years and the arrests of thousands of citizens who attempted to express their displeasure and concerns over an array of visible social and economic problems through peaceful protests.
While a lot of work has been put into trying to convince the Zanu PF-led government to repeal the laws which make Zimbabwe not very different from Rhodesia, not much has been achieved.
Few patriotic Zimbabweans would have thought that government repression would go a gear up, to literally curtail individuals’ rights to movement on spurious allegations of “threatening national interests”.
Last week’s events serve as a reminder that the present government will not stop at anything in its quest to silence any dissenting voices.
The message is very clear to all of us: be afraid, be very afraid.
It is important that we keep in mind that Zimbabwe is supposed to be very different from Rhodesia and that the present government has made a lot of effort to present itself as distinct from the erstwhile oppressors. We must keep in mind also that those who have lost their travel documents and those who shall follow suit are said to have threatened national interests, as stated in the recent Constitutional Amendment Number 17.
National interests are, however, not defined in the new law so that citizens of Zimbabwe can know how to conduct themselves within Zanu PF’s laws.
National interests were also defended by the Rhodesian regime through laws such as the Law and Order Maintenance Act (Loma).
One can conclude that the present Zimbabwean state is a continuation of the colonial state, only that the skin of the oppressor has changed, otherwise nothing else has moved.
The move to seize travel documents from people the government sees as its enemies, is a continuation of a type of governance that this territory has been familiar with since 1890.
Some say the more things change, the more they remain the same.
The vagueness of laws such as the constitutional amendment is deliberate so that anything can be seen as a threat to “national interests” should the government decide so. Similar laws existed under Rhodesia that barred individuals seen as threatening national interests, and these people were literally detained in certain areas and some banished to their rural homes.
We question how the ruling party justifies its actions as democratic and as in the true national interest that we all share.
We ask how Zanu PF calls itself a party that brought freedom when in essence it operates on the same standards as Rhodesia. While the government argues that one’s travel documents and identification documents are a privilege, that through their benevolence they bestow upon us lesser beings, I argue that one’s travel and identification documents are part of one’s identity as a citizen of Zimbabwe.
Many times what distinguishes and identifies one as a citizen of Zimbabwe are those documents, and in the absence of one committing serious criminal acts, armed insurrection or any other crime of that magnitude, one cannot have his/her Zimbabweanness taken away.
Zanu PF cannot take away what amounts to one’s birthright in pursuit of its narrow and partisan political interests. If one is born a Zimbabwean, neither political force nor law should take that away. We wonder what makes those who carry out these acts think that they are more Zimbabwean than the rest of us.
This takes us to the next part of my argument, that is the ruling party is no longer capable of taking this country forward.
For many in Zanu PF who call themselves Marxists and read Marxism well, I say their historical mission is over and there are so many contradictions in their system that makes it impossible for Zanu PF to take this country forward.
Looking back into history the present day leadership never had an agenda of freedom. As stated earlier, Zimbabwe in its present form, is Rhodesia incarnate.
Many genuine freedom-loving Zimbabweans who died for the cause of freedom are certainly turning in their graves as Rhodesia rises from its ashes in the form of Zanu PF.
While many thought taiva tose (we were together) many in leadership of this government are admirers of Rhodesia. That is the reason why we have Posa, Aippa, BSA and indeed, the latest moves to detain Zimbabweans within our borders.
Many in this leadership were part of the nationalists’ movement for, now we know, class and sectarian reasons and interests and not for true national interests which they purport to represent.
This explains why the land issue only became relevant as a political project in 2000 and not as socio-economic justice nor an empowerment issue some 20 years after Independence.
Many of us in our naivety and polarisation might see the confiscation of fellow citizens’ travel documents as political victories of some sort. Some will be small and fickle-minded and argue that these individuals deserve it. The truth, however is: we are all vulnerable and democratic standards must be protected and those we think differently about or see as our opponents must be defended, should their democratic rights be threatened.
While some within the ruling party and government celebrate, at least their true colours continue to show for the world to see. While Zanu PF sees such moves as a show of force and power, the truth is that what the world and patriotic Zimbabweans see are the devil’s fangs.
* Rashweat Mukundu is national director of Misa-Zimbabwe.