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Editor’s Memo: A Culture Of Impunity

IT started off as two then it jumped to 10. Soon it was 32 before it moved to 42. Just last week the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the number of its supporters killed in political violence perpetrated by suspected Zanu-PF activists had reached 65.


As I write this it is 66. Still the body count continues.

Of course that does not include those missing and other bodies that are probably buried in shallow graves across the country.

The real number might never be known.

Zanu PF has started its own body count. They say MDC members are killing their supporters too. Five or seven is what their body count has achieved so far.

We are now in body-counting mode. Suddenly these victims of brutality are supporters of political parties first and then human beings second. Dead bodies have become political commodities.

People are owned in this country dead or alive. It’s as if political leaders see the corpses as just statistics to be used to augment the damning case against the other.

We are living in dangerous times.

Human lives have become dices with which to score political points. The more bodies you pin on your opponent the more points you get, the logic seems to say.

But if there is any really disgusting part of this “game” it’s that nobody is talking about finding a solution to the crisis.

Everyday we wake up to count more dead bodies which we immediately brand MDC or Zanu PF supporters. It’s as if we bury them and wait for more to come.

Instead of finding a solution the Zanu PF government seems content with dispatching a search team to look for another body to counter MDC claims.

Every time you phone a government official about the murders the answer is the same: “You are biased. Why are you not asking about Zanu PF members that have been killed by MDC supporters?”

The police simply deny when all they have to do is investigate.

When this violence started, Zanu PF’s new spin doctor, Patrick Chinamasa, said the media was using old pictures of the violence that happened in 2002.

He gloated with a straight face devoid of any iota of shame as if what happened in 2002 was not bad enough.

The long and short of it is that he was in denial. It did not seem to matter to him that we were talking about cold-blooded murders.

When will it occur to the authorities that we are not talking about chickens but humans beings here?

We are not counting Zimbabwean dollars but dead bodies. People are dying.

Every time I cover these murders the brutality sends shivers down my spine.

But just where does this culture of impunity come from?

To me this culture started before the MDC was even thought of. It came from this hostility to rejection. I mean this sense of entitlement to power. Remember this statement in April 1983: “We eradicate them. We don’t differentiate when we fight because we can’t tell who is a dissident and who is not.”

Read that statement carefully and you will see a clear instruction. The impunity in that statement smells like rotten eggs.

About 20 000 people were killed in Matabeleland. Never mind what the propaganda machinery said about victims being “dissidents” those killings were about power.

Their crime was that they had attempted to reject this regime when it was still a toddler.

Twenty years later when this regime had become an adult it lamely described the Gukurahundi massacres as a “moment of madness”. That was supposed to be a sign of remorse.

If you think this is nit-picking then fast-forward to December 14, 2000. Your probably remember this one too: “Our party must continue to strike fear into the heart of the white man, our real enemy.”

Thereafter the killings intensified as more than 20 white commercial farmers were murdered.

To those of little faith in the power and determination of this regime the promise was clear: “The courts can do whatever they want, but no judicial decision will stand in our way…my own position is that we should not even be defending our position in courts. This country is our country and this land is our land.”

Read that statement again and you will see a discreet assurance of immunity.

It did not stop there.

When the regime realised that it was on the verge of losing power in the 2002 presidential election 39 opposition members were killed.

Recently there was the order for “a warlike campaign”. It is a war on those that dared reject the regime.

We have created this culture of impunity because we did not respect justice from the onset. We had 20 000 people killed in Matabeleland but not a single person was ever charged.

More than 20 people died during the land reform but no one faced trial even in a sympathetic court. Those that murdered people in 2002 are still amongst us. The authorities here have created an impression that there is security in killing in the name of “defending the gains of Independence”.

By Shakeman Mugari

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