A VERY unsettling incident took place last Tuesday just outside Harvest House, the MDC-T headquarters.
Opinion by Learnmore Zuze
Many who witnessed the incident can attest to the fact that the violence, which the opposition has over the years, ascribed to Zanu PF can, perhaps, with equal force, now be pinned on them as well. This follows the hapless and shameful haranguing of a man and his family passing through Harvest House by youths sitting outside the place.
His only crime was wearing a Belvedere Teachers College T-shirt with an inscription of the word “ZimAsset” at the back.
The stunned man was shoved and had to run away shirtless after the T-shirt was forcibly taken away from him.
The man would have the employees of a Bata outlet, a few metres away, to thank, after he sought refuge in the shop, with the seemingly drunk youths in hot pursuit.
It is quite revealing that the youths even had bricks and sticks with which they brashly pursued the man. They hunted him with conviction as though they were combatants fighting in a national cause. Pleas from the unfortunate man that he was merely a schoolteacher in Chinhoyi fell on deaf ears, as the marauding youths bayed for his blood. This behaviour, in my view, ought to be condemned in the strongest terms by all progressive Zimbabweans.
This incident, happening in Harare’s central business district, casts a gigantic dark shadow on the opposition’s advocacy for democracy in the last 15 years. It is self-defeating and buttresses the long-established critical view that the opposition could be worse given the apparatus to rule.
Honestly, if these youths can harass and assault a passerby in glaring daylight for merely wearing a T-shirt, what would happen if they had resources with which to suppress dissent?
Doesn’t this indicate intolerance and unacceptable hypocrisy? The actions of the youths, by default, bring the party leadership into guilt. The incident robs confidence in a new political dispensation which many Zimbabweans had bestowed upon the opposition.
Over the years we have woken up to reports of opposition stalwarts having been assaulted by people ascribed to the ruling party. Often times, the opposition has been cast in a positive light and made to appear as victims at the merciless hands of Zanu PF. Even in the few incidents when Zanu PF has claimed to have suffered opposition violence, the opposition has believably cited provocation.
Many reports indicate that the opposition has always acted in retaliation. For long, election violence has reared its ugly head with the opposition depicted on the receiving end.
In fact, one of the many electoral reforms, which the opposition has eagerly pointed at is the harassment, intimidation and violence against its supporters. It is indeed worrying that the very ills the opposition have claimed against the ruling party can now be found on its doorstep.
The incident proves that Zimbabwean politics still has a long difficult road to travel. The very tendencies that the ruling party has numerously been accused of are patently visible in the opposition. Could it be a case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire?
If the opposition is sincere about peace, then there is overwhelming need to ensure they behave exemplarily.
The incident shook many people’s faith in the opposition. The seriousness with which the youths walked and executed the attack left many in astonishment.
Could these youths be bent on tarnishing the opposition’s image? It was quite a heartrending sight, as the man and his two little children scurried for cover, while the stick-wielding youths charged towards him shouting obscenities against the “ZimAsset” ideology.
Could this be democracy by another name? Should the youths’ actions be blamed outside the party? What guarantee exists that this kind of behaviour would not characterise the party’s rule? Perhaps the more appropriate question would be whether or not these unruly youths should be allowed to be the face of the opposition party’s headquarters. Their conduct cannot be separated from the party and the party at large cannot escape culpability for these thoughtless acts.
What is even unforgivable about the whole incident is that the victim, only identified as Walter, claimed the police at the caravan on First Street Mall were also afraid of the youths. Surely who will protect the citizenry from uncouth political elements when supposed peacemakers are intimidated by drunken youths?
Surely, if the opposition leadership are serious about the democracy brand they want accepted by Zimbabweans, then they ought to decisively deal with the lack of discipline in the youths manning their premises. Their actions are unpardonable.
●Learnmore Zuze is a legal researcher, author and media analyst. He writes here in his own capacity. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org