THE manner in which the police — armed with truncheons, tear smoke canisters and water cannons — brutally put down demonstrations by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on Thursday, is a clear reminder that Zimbabwe is still under an authoritarian regime that does not take kindly to dissenting voices.
Is it not a universal right and hallmark of all civilised societies to protest in a peaceful manner? Yet, this has never been the case in Zimbabwe. We have no doubt that the brutal attack on peaceful demonstrators is part and parcel of the legacy of former President Robert Mugabe. However, this seems to be stretching into the so-called “Second Republic” under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Refusing people the right to a peaceful protest — after a previous protest was brutally put down with the killing of seven civilians and many others injured in the mix — may be an indicator that Zimbabwe is not yet ready to be part of the family of nations.
Clearly, there was really no need for the police to bar the ZCTU demonstration, arrest their officials and members when they had planned to protest against the introduction of a new 2% tax on electronic transfers.
It is regrettable that Zimbabwe has slowly been reduced into a police State over the past years, and it had been citizens’ hope that since Mnangagwa had promised a “new era”, this would extend to the conduct of the arms of the State, including the police.
We all know the claim that the demonstration was barred for fears that it could trigger a fresh cholera outbreak was just a ruse, given Zanu PF has been holding rallies in the past few weeks.
The real reason was to make sure that there is no publicly expressed dissent, which is not in the best interests of the new regime at a time when indications on the ground are that the powers that be seem clueless on what to do to arrest the economic free-fall.
Several gatherings have been successfully held in the country, and ironically, the police will tomorrow hold its funfair at the Borrowdale Race Course and at Morris Depot in the same environment where fear of a cholera outbreak is being claimed. We are not sure if the police, at its gatherings, is exempt from cholera infection by some law.
We couldn’t agree more with MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa that the country is, indeed, sliding back into the Mugabe era, which was characterised by brutal repressions of civil liberties and police heavy handedness.
We call on the authorities to be real if they are to be taken seriously, otherwise citizens do not want any indications of Mugabe-ism anymore!