By Tafadzwa Masango
MANY fail to understand the strategic importance of Zimbabwe in the US’ plans for southern Africa, and Africa at large, which is why some continue to be used to propagate the anti-ZANU PF rhetoric which is masked through feigned concerns about the human rights and democracy situation in the country.
The amount of US investment in Zimbabwe’s ‘democracy and advocacy’ sector runs into the billions, yet the US’ allies are concentrated in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, including military governments, tyrannical monarchs and outright despots, which should sound alarm bells to anyone with working brain cells.
A piece by former US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Harry Thomas in the aftermath of the terrorist events engineered by the opposition that rocked this country a few weeks ago had me thinking that the poor man must have been at some reorientation centre since he was recalled home.
At some point at the end of his tenure in Zimbabwe, Ambassador Thomas stopped towing Washington’s propaganda line against Government and instead chose to take a more realistic position.
So, imagine my surprise when the same Ambassador recently claimed that in Zimbabwe: “…supermarkets are struggling to stay open and cannot refill their shelves. Medicine is scarce. Zimbabweans can fill up with fuel only if they are willing to wait in mile-long queues or are lucky enough to have friends with connections. The Government often shuts down the internet, denying people access to social media. Many Zimbabweans fear another military takeover. Southern Africa’s stability is at risk as impoverished citizens flee.”
The doom and gloom penned by Ambassador Thomas is from a script that the Americans have perfected in demonising anything in Zimbabwe that is linked to ZANU PF.
Thomas, as a former Ambassador to Zimbabwe, solidifies the very lies that are coming out of the opposition circles and intended to hype attention to the imagined crisis in the country.
The local US Embassy is not far behind, choosing to ignore the rampant looting and destruction of property carried out by their foot soldiers.
The US is promoting lawlessness in Zimbabwe under the guise of pushing the regime change agenda.
Nowhere in the world does the right to protest encompass what was witnessed in Zimbabwe a few weeks ago; and for US functionaries within and without Zimbabwe to make pronouncements in defense of such criminal acts is not only scandalous but setting a bad precedent in the international arena.
Even on US soil, protestors who engage in criminal behaviour face the full wrath of the law and are not cuddled with hugs and kisses by law enforcement agencies.
In fact, many a time when African-Americans and other people of colour have had legitimate reasons to protest against racism in America and things have gotten out of hand, authorities have had no problem imposing curfews and calling in the National Guard.
However, as we all know, Uncle Sam’s middle name is ‘hypocrisy’.
Lies, lies and more lies
The 2018 harmonised elections have come and gone. There are some like Nelson Chamisa and his handlers who misguidedly believe that the opposition should win.
The idea that ZANU PF has no support is not only myopic but exposes those who are pushing the regime change agenda as lacking understanding of Zimbabwe’s body politic.
Is it because they have been exposed to the one end of the intelligence spectrum and as such believe Zimbabweans are very much like the few individuals they interact with, or they believe the audiences abroad are stupid enough to buy into cheap propaganda disguised as news?
The amount of fake news and lies that are floating around in regards the security situation in the country is a cause for concern for every Zimbabwean who is interested in the development of this great nation.
Some have resorted to using pictures of victims of accidents and domestic violence cases from as far as Nigeria, all in a bid to perpetuate the narrative that the country is under siege from the security apparatus.
It is ironic, however, that when those who are using these false images to bolster their lies are confronted, they claim that while the pictures are fake, their accounts of the alleged brutality of the security forces still hold.
We have seen various women’s groups and the police (ZRP) pleading with alleged rape victims to come forward and report.
However, we continue to hear of rape cases reported to foreign media houses and on social media, as though the media will arrest and prosecute the alleged rapists.
We have been there before; NGOs and civil society linked to the opposition are the epicentre of these reports of ‘hundreds of women raped’ and are reportedly housing them.
A few weeks ago, two known activists in the southern part of the country refused to be part of the lies surrounding alleged rape cases, following reports that they could authenticate rape cases in their city.
Surpringly, to date, some Western media houses continue to refer to the unconfirmed rape cases which the two activists denied knowledge of.
The right to protest has caveats
The opposition and its backers would have the nation think that their rights supersede those of every other Zimbabwean.
That is not the case; an individual’s rights cannot and should never be allowed to infringe those of other citizens.
That is why, even at community level, while everyone has the right to enjoy religious freedoms, local authorities have a mandate to ensure that churches are not infringing on the rights of the rest of the community whether through unnecessary noise pollution, overcrowding or public safety.
That is the same with the right to protest.
People like Ambassador Thomas and his colleagues at the local embassy are desperate to sanitise the vandalism to property and terrorising of citizens that took place between January 14-16 2019 while focussing more on Government’s use of ‘disproportionate force’.
The reason being, if they acknowledge that their sponsored crowd committed criminal acts under the guise of protests, then it means the argument that Government had no basis to put ‘boots’ on the streets falls away.
Shops were looted, police stations were ransacked, vehicles and buses were burnt to ashes, roads were barricaded to deny people free movement, helpless citizens were forced to take part in a protest that they were not interested in, all in the name of creating a situation that would be used to bring international attention on Zimbabwe and its Government.
The disobedience and criminality exhibited by the hundreds who are now going through various judiciary processes and those who have already been sentenced or acquitted would never be tolerated in the US.
Generally, in the US, you have the right to distribute literature, hold placards, collect petition signatures and engage in other similar activities while on public sidewalks or in front of government buildings as long as you are not disrupting other people’s businesses, forcing passersby to accept leaflets or causing traffic problems.
Pouring river sand or blocking roads with boulders, burning tires and forcing people to join a demonstration are reasons for arrest.
The First Amendment does not protect speech that is combined with the violation of established laws such as trespassing, disobeying or interfering with a lawful order by a police officer.
Also outlawed are malicious statements about public officials and obscene speech.
Although an inflammatory speaker cannot be punished for merely rousing an audience, a speaker can be arrested for incitement if he/she advocates imminent violence or specifically provokes people to commit unlawful actions.
In the US, Godfrey Sithole and other opposition figures would be languishing behind bars right now for encouraging supporters to loot shops as well as disobey and attack law enforcement officers.
People who engage in civil disobedience should be prepared to be arrested or fined as part of their protest activity.
If you endanger others while protesting, you can be arrested.
A protest that blocks vehicular or pedestrian traffic is illegal without a permit.
You do not have the right to block a building entrance or physically harass people.
The general rule is that free speech cannot take place on private property, including shopping malls, without consent of the property owner.
You do not have the right to remain on private property after being told to leave by the owner.
Those who looted shops at various shopping complexes in cities and towns; who were instructed and pleaded to by shop owners to leave their property, but went on to loot, and burn shops should face the full wrath of the law.
Interestingly,under the US Patriot Act, non-US citizens who are not permanent residents can be investigated solely because of their First Amendment activities.
Immigrants who choose to engage in a protest march, or a demonstration should carry with them the telephone numbers of friends and relatives, as well as the telephone numbers of an immigration attorney or an immigrant advocacy organisation.
So the American establishment has no problem inciting foreigners to demonstrate against their governments, but when it comes to those same people demonstrating against the US Government on its soil, the gloves are off.
Why would an immigrant not have the right to demonstrate on US soil without protection of the law?