Let’s admit it, we are a violent people
A VIOLENT mob last week threatened to violently assault Tafadzwa Mapako after a court granted her over a thousand dollars in monthly maintenance. Their beef? She is a gold-digger and is ruining Macheso’s brand. She was lucky enough the riot squad was close by and escorted her to safety. What I found curious was the lack of outrage. WOZA said nothing. Betty Makoni said nothing. Beatrice Mtetwa said nothing. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said nothing.
Let us recreate that violent scene.
Imagine an MDC-T supporter had insulted Mugabe and had been taken to court. On his way out a baying mob of Zanu-PF youths threatening to “teach him a lesson” is only held back by the intervention of the police.
I can see the headline in NewsDay: Zanu-PF warlords demand blood
The outrage in the media would be immediate and unequivocal. Civil Society would weigh in and press statements would be issued.
The erudite Joram Nyathi has already dealt with this issue. His most recent attempt at civilising our violent mob of citizens was a piece in which he argued that we have become a sadistic nation.
Over 10 years ago he wrote another article in which he described a violence of the heart in which one speaks against violence yet is actually for violence without actually recognising the contradiction.
The point that Nyathi makes and which I am hoping to build upon is that we are generally a violent people with no respect for the rule of law.
My addition to that thesis is that you cannot then expect a society that has no respect for the rule of law to produce politicians that respect the rule of law.
Some years ago a Ugandan professor delivered a very persuasive argument that African private values are not in step with the public values of democratic society.
A few examples would be helpful.
When we catch thieves, be it in supermarkets or in our homes, what do we do first?
Do you urge people not to harm the offender and instead march them peacefully to a police station?
More often than not we demand the thief be “taught a lesson” and are not displeased if he is beaten up to the point of injury.
Even women are involved in this.
You hear comments like “akaura” and you wonder what exactly we mean by that.
Why does our language have such a succinctly malevolent word?
If someone borrows money and begins to evade the creditor when they are caught they can be beaten up arousing no particular protest from observers.
If a father catches a boy kissing his daughter then it would not be considered wrong to beat the boy up.
If someone is a sell-out “mutengesi” then it is okay to beat them up. If someone is a “Zanoid” then it is okay to beat them up.
Our position as a society is that violence in itself is not a vice.
It is okay to use violence if the victim is wrong.
So thieves, daughter-kissing boys and husband snatchers are all fair game.
This is an incontestable point about our society, we accept violence.
The problem with this societal trait is that one cannot shake it off once they get into politics.
In fact, violence becomes an especially handy tool because in politics the opposition faction is always wrong and as such it is okay to beat them up.
When Elton Mangoma was beaten up, Tsvangirai’s supporters could not even bring themselves to an unequivocal condemnation.
Instead, we were told that he had merely been “scratched” and was seeking attention by giving pictures to the media.
Within the subconscious mind, many actually felt that the troublesome purse holder had actually gotten less than he deserves.
Trudy Stevenson accuses Tsvangirai of using violence.
Job Sikhala accused Tsvangirai of using violence.
Welshman Ncube accuses Tsvangirai of violence.
Elton Mangoma accuses Tsvangirai of violence as does Tendai Biti and many other former comrades.
How then is it that Nelson Chamisa can stand beside Tsvangirai and still pledge his support when there is overwhelming evidence that Tsvangirai makes use of violent youths to settle scores with political opponents?
Chamisa can do so because deep inside he is like most Zimbabweans, we do not have a problem with violence itself but who it is used against.
This is why the attempted attack on Tafadzwa Mapako is so important.
It exposed us all for what we really are.
Ndatenda, ndini muchembere wenyu,