Police, scribes, two hoes digging the same pit

Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve two hoes digging the same pit cannot avoid knocking against each other, but it is management by the handlers that gives progress.

In Rhodesia, this villager grew up to fear the police. Rhodesian policemen were crude and cruel, Karitundundu, the ageless village autochthon always warned.

This villager experienced both Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, so it helps.

In Zimbabwe this villager has grown up to respect the police and tries by all means not to commit any crime because the police force has, by and large, presented itself as a people’s police in the majority of cases, albeit with a few excesses, in the view of this villager. This villager is sure many readers are beginning to imagine what is up his sleeve.

Well, yes, three Sunday Mail scribes including the editor Mabasa Sasa were arrested under some law that this villager is yet to understand.

This villager will not go into the merits or demerits of this matter, for, village law says it is prejudicial.

For my brother Sasa, it was the case of the leading cow getting the stoning. Tough luck! For the two scribes Brian Chitemba and Tinashe Farawo, it was a case of trying to get to the bottom of a matter of national importance. Again, touch luck!

There are two sensitive issues here that are at stake on the brand Zimbabwe, a World of Wonders, outside the real case before the courts.

One: the international community is very sensitive to the poaching of wildlife, let alone elephants that are classified under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention and are always ready to demonise Zimbabwe for failing to protect wildlife. It has a huge economic and political impact. The hullabaloo over the killing of Cecil the lion is a case in point.

TWO: freedom of the Press. It is a big issue on the international scene and thus when the police arrest journalists, they must think carefully about the implications. It is again the brand Zimbabwe at stake. Police might or might not have thought of these implications before arresting the journalists. This villager is not defending the story as that is tantamount to prejudicing the trial process.

But there has already been a spirited campaign against Zimbabwe over its failure to thwart poaching, despite all the efforts of National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Something is really wrong here because we have continued to lose those wild animals and that, compounded by the arrest of journalists writing on the subject matter, gives Zimbabwe a serious problem with the powerful international community. The US has already banned dealing in ivory from Zimbabwe over politicised poaching. We await its next reaction.

The recent poaching of more than a score of elephants, themselves the pivot of our tourism industry, coupled with the poaching— same style— of 86 elephants last year, has presented a real serious problem for Zimbabwe at the CITES 2017 conference. We face a total ban in the trade of ivory and elephant related products and that will not be good for us.

The elephants whose gestation period is a long 22 months and have a replacement value of more than $25 000 each, are a big story. It is not the merits or demerits of the matter before the courts itself that this villager is trying to unlock, but the implications to Zimbabwe’s already chequered image.

Police and journalists investigating the same case are bound to bump into each other and do village elders with cotton tuft hair not say, hoes digging the same pit cannot avoid knocking against each other. It is just management that is required not harassment or gagging.

The full import of this is that by arresting the journalists, police have created a situation where the world has started questioning Zimbabwe’s stance on Press freedom and its attitude towards unlocking systematic poaching. It damages the brand, Zimbabwe: a World of Wonders.

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