By Tafadzwa Masango
MANY have seen the numerous videos and pictures of seemingly intoxicated men and women barricading roads, looting shops as well as burning public and private property.
In fact, one truck offloaded several tonnes of sand along a Kuwadzana road, in a bid to personify the ‘kudira jecha’ slogan.
In another video, Chitungwiza North legislator Godfrey Sithole encourages a crowd to loot shops and to ensure there is no free movement of individuals to and from Chitungwiza.
Interestingly, the very persons and organisations supposed to speak out against such criminal behaviour have remained mum.
It is a classic: ‘Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil’ playing out in Zimbabwe.
We have entered into yet another season of lies, misinformation and outright mischief.
The so-called demonstrations were about bringing Zimbabwe back under the global spotlight, especially as Harare has started the process of strengthening relations with Eurasia.
This engagement with that part of the world does not bode well for the prospects of the West, hence the hiring of goons to tarnish the image of Zimbabwe.
Here is why.
The so-called rights groups and Western sponsored media have joined the fray, accusing the military and police of raping women during house-to-house searches.
“We have received very disturbing reports of a number of cases of women allegedly raped by members of security forces,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern African director for Human Rights Watch.
However, women and victim-friendly organisations such as Musasa Project and Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) said they have not yet received any verified rape cases.
Some video recordings of unidentified women who allege to have been raped have been posted on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp while other sections of the local media have gone to town with those unverified stories.
That a police officer was bludgeoned to death is not even mentioned in passing because that would not suit the narrative against the Government and Zimbabweans at large.
That civil society and the so-called independent media would choose to ignore all these events is nothing new.
Over the years, it has become more lucrative to report as much negativity as possible about Government and Zimbabwe.
The objectivity of the reports that come out of civil society and some media houses is clouded by the almighty dollar.
The story of Blessing Mabhena stands as a testimony of the cooked-up reports that come from civil society and the so-called independent media in their attempts to discredit Government.
In 2008, there was a story that ZANU PF youth militia broke both legs of an 11-month-old baby to punish his father for being an opposition councillor.
The baby, Blessing Mabhena, was allegedly grabbed from the bed and flung down with force as his mother, Agnes, hid under the bed.
Touched by the story which was making rounds in the country as a result of the propaganda by ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ groups, an organisation of foreign doctors visited the child in the hope of offering medical assistance.
That is when the pandora’s box was opened.
It turned out the child had a serious case of rickets and the mother had been urged by some ‘political activists’ to claim he was a victim of political violence in exchange for payment of medical bills.
The New York Times carried a front page article of the story titled, ‘Mugabe’s thugs shout ‘Let’s kill the baby’,’ with a good portion of the page carrying an image of the allegedly assaulted baby.
The British Sunday Times and Newsweek were among the more prominent papers that carried Blessing’s story before it was exposed for what it was — a hoax.
Various politicians and numerous rights organisations also latched onto the story, releasing all sorts of statements condemning the ‘heinous act’ which never was.
The poor child had become the poster child for the narrative of ZANU PF political violence — a narrative which persists to date and is used to push for donor funds by unscrupulous political and civil society activists.
However, what is appalling and shocking is the false, biased and generalised report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), which is based on neither facts nor evidence, but is inaccurate and reeks to kingdom come of a dangerous political agenda aimed at discrediting Government and the security sector.
The report deliberately underplays the looting, robbery, arson, attempted murder, murder, destruction of property, barricading of roads, anarchy, sexual molestation, psychological abuse of children, premeditated attacks on protected areas such as police stations and victimisation of citizens by organised gangs of hooligans under the operational tutelage of the
MDC Alliance, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC), the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), #Tajamuka and #ThisFlag and their like-minded allies.
The report tacitly says it is based on findings of ‘monitoring’ undertaken from January 16 to 21 2019.
The report deliberately ignored the events of January 13-15 2019 when the motely host of opposition elements set up barricades, through gangs of militia, to force Zimbabweans to be part of the so-called stay-away and to inflict terror on the population, as well as to make the country ungovernable.
The widespread looting and arson that occurred prior to the 16th is generalised in the report with no attempt by the ZHRC to quantify the damage and losses caused by the hooligans to the victims.
For the record, $800 million worth of property was destroyed, damaged or looted from law-abiding businesses across the country.
In addition, the economic damage that the country suffered amounted to $500 million, according to conservative estimates by Government.
The security services were instrumental in restoring sanity and protecting life, limb and property.
It is worrying that the ZHRC arrives at the conclusion of alleged police brutality and torture based on unreported, untested and unverified allegations.
It is instructive that the ZHRC pinpoints the army and police in its report on alleged atrocities and torture, but surprisingly does not name the MDC Alliance, CiZC, ZCTU, #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka which organised the violent protests and orchestrated them.
To show the apparent bias and political inclination of the ZHRC, one needs to look at its sources of information.
On the issue of the alleged targeting of the MDC Alliance and CSOs, it made its conclusions from ‘media sources’, of which the only sources of the reportage were the private and some international media houses whose bias against Government is well-known.
Surprisingly, the ZHCR chose to ignore reports in the public media pointing to the Wild Geese meeting of November 3-7 2018 and the Belvedere meeting of January 11 2019, which meetings planned and organised the violent events of January 14 to 16.
Further, despite not having got official figures of deaths, nor shootings during the disturbances, the ZHRC gleefully refers to alleged many deaths as projected by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights which wilfully inflated and exaggerated the extent of shootings by the police, while ignoring those by the hooligans.
Ironically, pro-MDC Alliance activists who drive opinion on cyber space were quick to laud the ZHRC for publishing its biased report.
A well-known proponent of the MDC Alliance tweeted: “amid the chaos and repression in #Zimbabwe, there are few islands of reason and professionalism.”
Noteworthy is the political statement by ZHRC asserting there is a deteriorating economic and security situation in the country.
The economic challenges that the new dispensation is working tirelessly to address are legacy issues and in no way qualify to be regarded as signs of a ‘deteriorating economy’.
Furthermore, the security situation in the country is under control and ploys to cause destabilisation as plotted and executed during the period in question will be met with the long arm of law.
The most poignant point that exposes the biased and politically-motivated report by the ZHRC is the justification of the attack on Chitungwiza Police Station via the false claim that the shooting of a protester instigated the running over of the station by the MDC Alliance hooligans. It is noteworthy that the attack on the Police Station occurred on January 14 2019, a date the ZHRC conveniently excluded from its so-called findings.
To make matters worse, the ZHRC is silent on the bludgeoning to death of Constable Alex Maune, as well as the injuries sustained by law-enforcement agents at the hands of the hooligans.
This is calculated mischief by the biased ZHRC, which has openly shown unbridled disdain for the State by publishing a false report.
Many might not be privy to this, but the terms of office of some at the ZHRC are coming to an end, and this biased report is an attempt to secure a soft landing in the civil society industry. These individuals are thinking of their post-ZHRC life, and such a biased report plays into the opposition’s narrative and is likely to open doors.
There is no right that is more important than the other.
Zimbabweans have a right to property, right to safety, right to free movement, freedom of conscience and freedom to demonstrate peacefully.
Equally, citizens have no right to destroy, maim, loot, rob, murder and at the same time cry victim when the security services deploy commensurate and proportional force to neutralise violent demonstrations in “…the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health…” in accordance with Section 86 of the Constitution.
All persons who engaged in unlawful acts during the violent disturbances should be brought to book without fear or favour.