View From the Diaspora Nick Mangwana
Had General Josiah Tongogara lived to see this day, he would have been 78-years-old, an elderly senior citizen. He would have been much older than most of the elderly comrades we saw being choked by tear-smoke and being drenched by water cannons last week. He would probably have arthritis,
maybe high blood pressure or diabetes or any of the illnesses that afflict our elderly.
So really if any member of our current crop of youths would challenge him to fisticuffs, the younger man would probably win. But it would probably be considered a sacrilege for such a challenge to even leave the lips of the younger man.
But last week we heard threats of that nature being issued by youths who dared to call themselves the vanguard of the party! No young man! You are just an overgrown delinquent man with a pre-pubescent brain! Threatening elderly people does not make you a man. It makes you a rascal.
Zanu-PF has values. At least it is meant to have them. If one is a vanguard of that party then it is those values that one has to defend. Not to promote indecorous nonsense. The war veterans are not heroes because they can fight today. They are heroes because of what they sacrificed in their youths. Throwing down a gauntlet to them today shows lack of contextual intelligence, or any intelligence at all for that matter.
Respecting those that made sacrifices for the common good is the ultimate proof of patriotism. Some of them are shrivelled and withered because of what they put their bodies through before reaching their prime, therefore retarding forever the ability to actualise and reach certain developmental milestones.
Nobody is suggesting that they are above the law or some of their behaviour does not deserve reproach. Oh, it does! Some people are rightly feeling alienated from these heroes by what they see as as a spirit of entitlement.
When that sacrifice which is meant to be appreciated is now turned into a millstone for the population then heroism goes sideways. When the “takarwa hondo” is rubbed into the faces of the masses every time privilege and dueness are about to be claimed then heroes turn into burdens. Yes, comrade that makes you lose some of your deserved sympathy and appreciation from the masses.
Your claims should not imply that you fought for yourselves and not for us all. The people are on your side and will always be on your side, but comrades need to remain with the people and for the people.
So these comrades are not saints. Some have abused history and there are a lot of fakes in their ranks as well. However, this column is addressing issues around real heroes. As usual we also have to learn from other nations but also maintain our hunhu/ubuntu.
The British have a poppy plant as a symbol of remembrance which was adopted after the First World War. They will always wear that symbol during a certain period. To not wear one is considered to be unpatriotic.
In Zimbabwe there is Heroes Day. It is the day when we hear from the memories of these comrades that were there, that went and endured the brunt of the war for us.
In America they have the Veterans Day to honour their war veterans. Unlike in Zimbabwe most of these veterans are people that paid the ultimate price in America’s hegemonic global adventures.
Now for Zimbabwe these heroes did not embark on a Rambo-like macho adventure. Most were kids who just felt that as “vana vevhu” they had to fight for freedom and damn the consequences. They were not conscripted but fought because of political consciousness.
They did not lose it after the war. They still know what they fought for. We are talking of people that were soldiers of conviction. They did not just fight a war. They founded a nation. These elderly comrades deserved better, POSA or no POSA.
This column has covered a thing or two about policing in Zimbabwe. It will not shy away from stating again that it is too heavy handed.
Surely, someone had already said that they could not run 100 metres so why gas them with tear-smoke and blast them with water cannons? We talk of youths who are disrespectful to their elders? Well, if the behaviour of those heavy- handed but youthful police does not exemplify that, then the nation again has lost its moral compass.
POSA was not legislated to prove who has the power. It was not enacted to say to the people you shall not have a meeting until so and so has said you can. Its primary objective is about public safety. Who really caused a threat to public safety on February 17 between the police and the liberators?
Wasn’t it up to the police to evaluate the likelihood of a threat to public order and then provide resources to ensure there is no disturbance of peace. In this particular case it is clear that resources were available and more. Instead of deploying those resources to ensure the meeting would happen peacefully, they were deployed to make sure the meeting would not happen. By so doing public order was disturbed and elderly liberators were not only gassed but humiliated. The nation cries for smart policing methods.
Why are the police so keen on pre-emptive strikes in issues like these and don’t show the same preventative zeal in other policing matters? It is known that there are cases where they leave a crime to be committed and then deal with the lawbreakers after. If a crime was at all being committed on this particular day, sorry to say it was a victimless crime therefore should have been handled quite differently. In any case isn’t there a lot of precedence of our war vets holding these meetings without police clearances? Why making a heavy- handed exception to this particular one?
Did the police have intelligence that these liberators had suddenly become anarchists? The police are accountable to the Republic and the public has a right to know why elderly liberators were gassed until some of them reportedly lost consciousness.
From the build-up to this abortive meeting, it was not the liberators who were threatening violence and agitating for a fight but a younger more physically capable outfit of youngsters who felt that because they had the vigour of youth on their side they could threaten physical harm on their grandparents. If there is anyone who threatened public order, it is them.
This columnist has no dog in the succession politics of the revolutionary party but any decently raised African would not countenance people that throw their weight around in this manner. In the playground they are called bullies. Isn’t this what America is criticised for? Nobody should just use raw power just because they have it and can.
The police escalated things by their behaviour. They cranked up tension from the start. They were there in intimidating and provocative numbers. Witnesses speak of buses being stopped from coming from far-off places.
While the war vet leadership should have sought permission for the meeting as per statute, there is clear evidence that the security agencies and their minsters knew of this meeting well in advance because they deployed widely and far afield. Did they invite the leadership for a meeting to deal with issues of security concerns or even ask them to call it off? Why did they choose the confrontational route of aiming to prove who is in charge?
If someone was telling us that the leaders had been taken aside days before and they had remained stubborn then maybe the police might be exonerated. Instead signals were just sent out to provinces to stop these elderly folks from coming to Harare and use “bring it on” attitude against those that managed to assemble.
Pre-emptive police work should involve engaging with the parties whose actions they think might disturb public peace. Every teargas canister that was fired was bought by hard to come by money. It is money wasted now. So is every litre of fuel that was used to propel those heavy guzzlers towards the assembled old folks.
Every litre of water that was used to pound on elderly liberators could have done a service had it been put in a bowser and supplied to some hospital. In the past we called for politics with a conscience.
This time around we call for policing with a conscience.