ZIMBABWE has become the exact same state the liberation war combatants fought against, that of gross human rights abuses, repression and intimidation of those opposed to President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF government.
Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
Former cabinet minister and Zanu PF politburo member Eddison Zvobgo and other war heroes like former vice-president Joshua Nkomo and Josiah Tongogara must be turning in their graves as Zimbabwe becomes the police state Rhodesia was.
In an interview in 1974, Zvobgo said: “We do not want to create a socio-legal order in the country in which people are petrified, in which people go to bed having barricaded their doors and windows because someone belonging to the Special Branch of the police will break into their house. This is what we have been fighting against. Every one of us has been in jail 10 years, 14 years, I myself nine years without trial. Every one of us has lived and has had to live scared of the police. How on earth would we create a society which is exactly like that? We don’t want it. We are fed up of it. This is why we are in this revolution for as long as it is necessary to abolish this system.”
However, 36 years down the line after Independence, the police state still remains intact, this time under a black government.
Mugabe has adopted legislation used by Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith to maintain his grip on power. Opposition political leaders and those perceived to be “enemies of the state” have to endure the same brutality and intolerance that nationalist leaders suffered under Smith’s regime, which made them take up arms against the colonialists.
The legal, structural and cultural aspects of the political and state system have largely remained in place. On the legal side, Smith’s Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, which was used against nationalist leaders and thousands of ordinary people, remained in the statute books until the late 1990s when it was repealed and replaced by the Public Order and Security Act, which is even more repressive. Opposition parties and civil society groupings cannot freely hold meetings, rallies and demonstrations without running into battles with the police. Just on Wednesday, several people were injured, among them journalists and innocent passers-by, as police used brute force to crush a peaceful anti-bond notes demonstration in Harare’s central business district. In the past few weeks, the police have launched a crackdown on those calling on Mugabe to step down after years of misrule.
The Emergency Powers Act remained 10 years after Independence and it was replaced by the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act enacted in 1986.
The security establishment, which was a key part of the repressive apparatus of the colonial state, also continued without change. The CIO has remained almost the same in structure and practice. The Joint Operations Command formed by Smith to co-ordinate the war effort against the liberation movements is still there, but now more to fight the opposition and citizens. It is the one behind the crackdowns. The situation has actually worsened. Zimbabwe now has the presidential insult laws. Some of the institutions have been strengthened with the creation of an executive president in 1987. Mugabe has now been elevated to a demigod. Indeed, the more things change, the more they remain the same.