Monday, February 11, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Don’t blame Mugabe for violence

Don’t blame Mugabe for violence
11/02/2013 00:00:00
by Mai Jukwa

FACTS are dangerous things when they are allowed to escape the moderation of context. It is this acquisition of context that is problematic. The challenge lies in that thorough context cannot be acquired by mere academic pursuit.

Students of foreign languages will tell you that even the best of educations will never allow one to enjoy the nuances of a language one was not born with. There is always a play of words or an expression hidden in intonation that will escape you.

A distinction quickly develops, that of the native and the foreigner. It is considerably difficult for the foreigner to understand the nuances of a culture or a people. One British journalist interviewed President Robert Mugabe at the State House. As dinner was served a young man came, knelt beside the president and washed his hands. The foolish journalist went on to remark in her writings that this was further evidence of Mugabe’s obsession with power. Unbeknown to her all Zimbabweans kneel before elders and wash their hands.

It is this kind of piecemeal knowledge that had led to misguided Western interventions in places like Libya and Iraq. The people of those countries left worse off than their initial condition.

To understand election violence in Zimbabwe and Africa in general one must pay close attention to context. What is the context in which this violence occurs?

In South Africa and Nigeria the people carry out gruesomes tortures in the name of meting out instant justice to criminals. A tyre is placed around the body, petrol is poured in and the person is set alight. The reasoning is that thief deserves this because he is wrong. The entire community is in absolute agreement when a rapist or armed robber is dealt with in this way.

This is violence of the worst kind and it has nothing to do with politics. It is about a society that believes that someone is wrong and that they are therefore justified to punish the offender through violence. The police rarely investigate these savage acts because they really do not find it objectionable that a person who was wrong has been punished.

One is quickly reminded of those gruesome pictures of a Zimbabwean who was beaten to a pulp and then burnt to death in South Africa during that terrible wave of xenophobic violence a few years ago. The local people danced in the street as they watched him burn to death. Is it the case that South Africans are evil? Had they been sent by the ANC? I think it not.

The killing of that Zimbabwean does not show that South Africans are evil and it certainly had nothing to do with politics. It was again a case of a society that believes that when a person is wrong it is permissible to punish them through violence. These actions had absolutely nothing to do with government. These South Africans felt Zimbabweans were stealing their jobs and such they had to be punished.

I will bring you back to Zimbabwe and remind you of the phrase mbava ngairohwe. In the 1980’s thieves caught at Mbare Msika often had their fingers reversed over by a bus, crippling them instantly. There was no public outcry over these acts of brutality carried out, not by the security forces, but by the public.

I have seen respectable men viciously beat up thieves and perceived malcontents. A friend who qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the 1990’s once found a drunk urinating on his car. He floored the coloured drunk and slammed his head perhaps a dozen times on the tarmac. This was a professional man disciplining a person who he perceived was wrong. We drove off as the drunk remained lying outside the bottle store, dazed and likely unaware of what had just happened.

I am sure your own experiences can give you a multitude of examples of how our society believes that if a person is wrong the violence is acceptable. How often are Zimbabwean women beaten by their husbands for this fault or the other?

The question we must then ask ourselves is who is to blame for election violence? Who is to blame for the fact that our police officers torture out confessions to the point were victims defecate themselves? Is it because of our politicians? I think not.

When Zimbabwe was viewed a one of Africa’s exemplary democracies there was still a great deal of violence around us. Thousands of people went through our jails and prisons and endured unimaginable tortures. There was little in the way of complaints because society was of the general view that these people deserved it because they were guilty of crimes.

One will recall how Roy Bennett violently charged Chinamasa in parliament simply because the said gentleman had expressed opinions that Bennett found objectionable. To this day Roy Bennett justifies his brutish actions. Again one is reminded of 2006 when Trudy Stevenson was violently attacked by thugs loyal to Tsvangirai. She was struck in the head with a machete.

I want you to imagine for one minute that the MDC came to power and some politically agitated touts drunk on victory saw Jonathan Moyo walking in the streets. It is very likely that he could be violently assaulted and it is even more likely that an MDC government would not vigorously investigate the case.

The point I am trying to make is that we are victims of a societal vice. We need to educate the entire population that violence is unacceptable no matter how you perceive someone to be wrong.

I can understand why war veterans attacked MDC supporters. It is not that they are evil vampires, as some would suggest. If they sincerely feel that the MDC is wrong and is furthering imperialist interests do you think they will not do what we do to people who are wrong?

If a young man who saw his educated father beating up a thief with the help of a neighbour grows up to be a police officer how will he conduct himself? If he detains a suspect who he is 100% sure is wrong but is refusing to confess it is likely he will use violence.

Those who believe Mugabe is responsible for election violence have not sufficiently pondered the matter. To expect society to be violent in their homes, against thieves and robbers but somehow suppress this instinct at election time is madness. These are nuances of the African condition that the West struggles to comprehend.

However I do blame Zanu PF for failing to ideologically initiate our people as to the meaning of freedom, liberty and the rule of law. There was widespread ululation in the blogosphere when Mohadi announced the ‘satanists’ were being deported.

None of our pseudo-journalists and NGO types who are ever screaming the virtues of democracy (read Lance Guma) asked what crime they had committed. Nobody objected to their continued detention when they had done nothing more than exercise their right to religion. Nobody has questioned the legality of the revocation of their refugee status in light of our international obligations to refugees. This because they are wrong, they deserve it.

This all seems very fair until you have a Bhuddist president and you are a Christian minority considered heretical and ripe for the stake.

Amai Jukwa is a loving mother of three. She respects Robert Mugabe, is amused by Tsvangirai and feels sorry for Mutambara. Follow her on Twitter @AmaiJukwa

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