FEBRUARY 23 1917 is a date that history will never forget. For on it, one of the world’s meanest dictators came face to face with the undiluted wrath of a people he had ill-treated for a long time.
Tsar Nicholas the second had ruled Russia with an iron fist since his rise to the helm of the eastern European nation.
Under his leadership, poor Russians bore the brunt of callous political and economic policies which led many to languish in poverty and squalor.
His ill-advised decision to join the First World War with a poorly equipped army in support of France backfired as the war proved to be a disaster.
The army lost every battle it fought in with millions dying and others deserting.
Resultantly, the war led to massive runaway inflation which wiped out people’s savings.
Food shortages became a regular feature with women enduring long winding queues to buy bread.
As the situation deteriorated, the already strained relationship between Nicholas and his people degenerated into a volatile situation and on February 23 1917, the once submissive and docile Russians finally snapped.
With unadulterated fury they thronged the streets of Petrograd, the country’s capital to parade their displeasure at the king’s maladministration.
Soldiers refused to descend on the protesters, choosing to side with them. A week of relentless protests gripped and crippled the nation which led to the king capitulating.
The ZANU-PF led government could face the same predicament if it continues to use brute force to quell voices of dissent and calls by Zimbabweans for an improved way of life.
A few weeks ago, a disgruntled citizenry took their anger and displeasure at government’s alleged misrule, economic collapse and tyrannical economic policies to the streets in a bid to arm twist the rulers into addressing their issues.
Unfortunately, in a repeat of August 1, protesters were met by hostile anti-riot police and military personnel who wantonly beat and shot them making a mockery of the Mohlante commission of inquiry which openly rebuked the use of live ammunition on civilians.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) reports that its doctors have attended to 172 victims of violence some of which are believed to have been perpetrated by members of the security forces.
Of these: “68 cases were gunshot wounds with affected individuals sustaining severe injuries which required urgent surgery… “read part of a statement recently released by ZADHR.
The human rights watchdog also reported that the police unleashed vicious police dogs on three people who were in police custody in Kadoma which is a serious constitutional violation as section 53 of the national charter provides that no person may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to inhuman and degrading punishment. Additionally, Section 50 (c) states that any arrested person: “Must be treated humanely and with respect for their inherent dignity.”
History has recorded with exactness, the same repressive tactics being used on nationalists like the former president Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, James Chikerema and others during their stints in prison but the more the Smith administration intensified torture the more radical the veterans of the struggle became.
Police brutality, the suppression of political activity, and the exploitation of black labour convinced Nkomo of the need for a violent response.
Nkomo was previously an idealist who believed Gandhi’s philosophy of non-aggression but he soon changed and decided to fight the tyrannical regime head on because of its attitude towards blacks.
Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1965 served to confirm his conviction.
He wrote: “There was a lot of talk about people, especially from the youth wing, being sent out of the country to receive training in guerrilla warfare. I had already met some who had completed their training in sabotage and the use of explosives. I liked this very much because I had come to the conclusion that violence was the only language the colonialists could understand. They had never listened when we had tried and tried to talk to them.”
When citizens witness death, sustain injuries for the sake of freedom they become radical, fear paves way for bravery and revolutions take place.
Former United States of America President John F. Kennedy aptly summed this up when he said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”
It is high time the ZANU-PF led government turns its ear to the pleas of the people and address the situation in the country before it spirals out of control.
President Mnangagwa popularised the statement, “The voice of the people is the voice of God” and that he is a listening president who is as soft as wool.
However, the situation prevailing on the ground is different and can only be resolved by providing a decent life to the people and not hurting them for expressing their displeasure for this will exacerbate an already dire situation.
Violence against civilians is not the answer but a spark to revolution.
Martin Luther King and several other civil rights activists organised a protest in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
Sheriff Bull Connor in his intelligence or lack of it unleashed fire hoses and police dogs on the marchers.
Images of African Americans being brutalised by police with dogs and hoses as well as Martin Luther King’s arrest served as a catalyst for the anti-racial movement.
In 1976, several African students in the South African township of Soweto organised a peaceful protest to demonstrate against recent laws forcing them to learn the language of their white and Dutch oppressors.
During the protest, 20 000 students peacefully marched but 176 were killed by South African police.
The remonstrations and subsequent violence serve as an important historical turning point in the fight against apartheid. While the white South Africans thought they were quelling dissenting voices by killing civilians and their leaders like Steve Bantu Biko, they were actually planting the seeds of rebellion among the populace.
History does not lie!