‘Instruments of oppression’ war vets lose aura

via ‘Instruments of oppression’ war vets lose aura – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 20, 2016

On Thursday, war veterans, for long used as storm troopers and the very antithesis of democracy, met their comeuppance when police disrupted their meeting, tear-gassed and sent them scurrying for cover.

While there were pockets of sympathy for the former freedom fighters, mostly there was plain ridicule and mirth at their misfortunes, with the overwhelming verdict being they had got a taste of their own medicine.

A good number of war veterans have for long been the bane of democracy activism in Zimbabwe, disrupting opposition meetings, interfering with the judiciary and gratuitously threatening to go “back to the bush” to entrench Zanu PF rule. They were also at the forefront of the violent land reform programme.

We are not painting all former liberation war fighters with one brush. There are some that have stayed away from these heinous activities, but by and large, the term war veteran has come to be synonymous with violence and disorder.

The threat to return to the bush is one that has been used with chilling effect, but if yesterday’s events are anything to go by, it has been an empty one and the aura and mysticism of war veterans has been lifted.

Despite their starring role in oppressing Zimbabweans, war veterans are mortal after all.

As scholar Paolo Friere says in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed: “The oppressed must see examples of the vulnerability of the oppressor so that a contrary conviction can begin to grow within them”, and Thursday’s events have helped lift the aura of the war veterans and certainly a new narrative around them is beginning to form.

While we sympathise with the war veterans, as any form of violence should never be condoned, we feel their leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa, is being disingenuous when he threatens to sue the police and is crying crocodile tears, excuse the pun, after their meeting was disrupted.

As has been illustrated before, Mutsvangwa belongs to a school of thought that believes in brandishing their war credentials about, not to win endearment, but to strike fear in anyone who opposes him or has contrary beliefs to his.

War veterans are supposed to be revered in their countries, but the opposite is true in Zimbabwe, where, despite no constitutional or legal basis, they refer to themselves as a reserve army force, they are feared more than they are loved.

The former freedom fighters have for long acted like they operate above the law, but Thursday’s events brought them back to mother earth and hopefully, like the rest of us, they shall start campaigning for freedom of speech and association, rather than be the blunt instruments of oppression.

We commiserate with the war veterans and condemn all acts of violence, particularly by the police, and we hope this episode reminds the ex-combatants that the ideals they fought for during the liberation struggle have still not been attained.