Mnangagwa must beware of people power

Zimbabweans notice with sadness the blatant violent violation of their constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate against a government that has totally failed to manage their affairs.

On August 16, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime used police to beat up citizens who were peacefully protesting against his government’s failure to address economic hardships.

Videos and pictures have gone viral of police indiscriminately beating up citizens who were going about doing their business, apart from other citizens who were peacefully protesting. Pictures and videos depicted riot police using batons on elderly women who were not armed and were unable to flee their brutality. Whoever summoned and actually commanded the police and set them to beat citizens we do not care, but the buck stops with Mnangagwa, who is in charge. It is Mnangagwa who is liable, period.

Protests give feedback to the authorities on the level of disgruntlement among the populace. Mnangagwa’s government knows that the discontent is widespread in Zimbabwe so that the government instead chooses to thwart the protest altogether by reacting brutally to the unhappy and suffering people who are just trying to peacefully make their grievances known.

The government wants the people to suffer silently forever. People this time around attempted a peaceful protest, and the government, through the riot police, reacted violently. This shows how much the so-called new dispensation disregards the constitution which it is supposed to uphold. How government dealt with protestors gives a picture of how far Zimbabwe is from democracy, and how unwilling the government is to carry out reforms.

The same tactics employed to contain protests employed during Robert Mugabe’s tenure are in use now by the so called new dispensation. It is like the same person who was directing the manner of police reaction to suppress protests is also directing in the new dispensation.

The ruthlessness has not diminished, but has actually doubled under the so-called new dispensation. The new dispensation is only new in the sense that it comes after the Mugabe one in time, but not that it is different in spirit. Its human right record is actually worse than that of the Mugabe era.

Though Mnangagwa uses excessive and brutal force to quell protest, it does not mean that the people’s problems have ended, or that the domesticated Zimbabweans will remain cowered forever. Zimbabweans will one day go for Mnangagwa himself, as the real driving cause for their suffering.

What Mnangagwa does not realise is that by delaying and resisting change, the anger of the Zimbabwean people will keep simmering and may explode anytime. Push comes to shove, a cornered timid cat will fight a dog and defeat it and inflict severe or fatal wounds. Therefore, citizens will also realise that Zimbabwe is a fully fledged authoritarian state worse than that of Robert Mugabe and will resent it and will do everything to make it go away. At one point they will forget their fear.

When Rehoboam became king after Solomon’s death, the leaders of Israel came to him at Shechem and implored him, saying, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favourable answer, they will always be your servants.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’? “The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier.

My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions. ‘The king answered the people harshly.

Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”

So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. The story is found in the book of 1 Kings, and somehow mirrors our present situation, that is why I raised it, to teach those who show apathy and mock other people’s suffering.

This is the attitude of Mnangagwa’s government to the people, they will increase the level of oppression to higher levels than that of the previous government.

Zanda Shumba is a local political commentator.

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