Ever since the so-called ‘new dispensation’ come into power in November 2017 – via the barrel of the gun, in a military coup d’etat, that ousted long-time brutal dictator, Robert Gabriel Mugabe – the mantra that has always been on their deceitful lips has been their desire to ‘open up democratic space’, through the implementation of ‘democratic reforms’, which they purported would be a paradigm shift from the dark days of the now late tyrant.
Of course, some of us did not buy into this absurd lie – since, what normal person would have believed that the very same individuals, who had been known for being the hatchet men and enforcers of Mugabe’s ruinous and murderous reign of terror, mostly targeted at any perceived opponents, would suddenly wake up one morning, and declare to have miraculously reformed into the world’s epitome of democracy?
Honestly, it takes more than some lame statements – even shouted from the top of the highest mountain – that one had transformed from his or her nefarious and rogue ways…in fact, it may take the rest of someone’s life, in order to prove, and finally convince those he or she had ruthlessly hurt and harmed, to finally believe him or her.
Seriously, how long would it take for a person, who had been tormented for decades by his or her spouse, or partner, to finally believe his or her promises that the abuse would never occur again – most especially, when these assurances had been repeatedly broken, probably resulting in even more heinous dastardly acts of savagery?
Therefore, why would anyone have fallen for the November 2017 yarn, that these same people – who faithfully served as Mugabe’s vicious ruthless henchmen and thugs – had, at long last, experienced some ‘Road to Damascus’ epiphany, that had led them to suddenly relinquish their life-long insatiable thirst for innocent blood?
As such, when Zimbabweans read reports that, this so-called ‘new dispensation’ has actually arrested more human rights defenders, in only three years of their existence (with most of the accused never being convicted of any crime in court), coupled with record-breaking notorious allegations of abductions, torture, and sexual abuse – as opposed to their former leader’s 37 nightmarish years – should there be any cause for bewilderment? Was this not expected?
Considering the manner in which this ‘new dispensation’ attained power – through a military coup d’etat – where do they get the audacity to accuse anyone else of engaging in violence, as what could be more violent than using a gun to enter office?
When labour activists are jailed – under the pretext of engaging in ‘public violence’, yet without any shred of evidence of such violence having taken place – for merely exercising their Section 59 democratic right to ‘peacefully demonstrate and petition – what are the people of Zimbabwe to make of this ‘new dispensation’?
Surely, how on earth does a government link a ‘peaceful demonstration’ with ‘public violence’?
Is this not simply a shamelessly deliberate attempt to subvert a constitutional right, so as to further trample upon the Zimbabwean people’s democratic space – the same space, this callously deceptive regime assured all and sundry that it was busy opening up?
How does one open up something, by shutting it close?
How can we boast of one of the most progressive constitutions in this world, yet unable, or unwilling, to implement it?
Ever since the so-called ‘new dispensation’ came into power, how many people – outside the ruling party, and their sympathizers – have been granted permission, and given free passage, to exercise their constitutional “right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but exercising these rights peacefully” [Section 59], with their “right to freedom of assembly and association” [Section 58(1)] being respected, whilst enjoying their “right to freedom of expression” [Section 61], in speaking out against the government – as they “participate, individually or collectively, in gatherings or groups or in any other manner (even in adherence to COVID-19 regulations – my own addition), in peaceful activities, to challenge or support the policies of the Government or any other political or whatever cause” [Section 67(2)(d)]?
Further to “every employee having the right to participate in collective job action, including the right to strike, sit in, withdraw their labour and to take other similar concerted action” [Section 65(3)].
As I mentioned before, our constitution is arguably the best on this planet – but, in the hands of a regime that knows no constitutionality – as they violate this same sacred supreme law of the country, which the power-hungry opportunistic ruling elite swore to obey, uphold and defend [Third Schedule], yet have gone full throttle in its bastardization, in unprecedented ways, never witnessed since the country attained independence in 1980.
In fact, the people of Zimbabwe have moved from one colonial power to another – never having tasted even a single day of true freedom, since the 1890 raising of the Union Jack at Fort Salisbury – with each generation of leadership seemingly even more brutal than the previous, such that we currently face the most heinous of all time.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, since all is not lost yet. We still have each other. We have an Almighty God, who stands with the poor, speaks for the voiceless, and hates all forms of injustice.
We still have the unbreakable and unconquerable power of unity in numbers – as, quite honestly, how can over 16 million people always cry over being oppressed by a handful clique?
Even a small little seemingly powerless and insignificant bee knows, all too well, the potency and might of working as a swam – a fact most Zimbabweans never appear to appreciate – but, which, obviously, the ruling elite understands and fears, thereby, the relentless and concerted brutal crushing of any real or rumoured demonstrations, no matter how peaceful.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263733399640 / +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975, or email: email@example.com.