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9 facts, myths about Zimbabwe mayhem

by Tichaona Zindoga
18 Jan 2019 at 11:44hrs | Views
On  Monday and Tuesday, the opposition in Zimbabwe staged what they called a national "shutdown" which was supposed to be a popular mass protest against the Government over the rising cost of living. This thrust Zimbabwe into the global limelight again.

On Monday morning, residents of Harare (and the dormitory town of Chitungwiza) and Bulawayo woke up to blockaded roads as youth brigands prevented people from going into the city centre, to work, school or other destinations.

The youths, armed with rocks, sticks, bottles, fire implements and other rudimentary weapons mounted checkpoints to control traffic.

The checkpoints were also used to extort motorists. Private cars and public transport vehicles were ordered to drop off passengers at the checkpoints. Vehicles whose owners resisted were stoned, or overturned or burnt. The youths also beat up people who did not comply with their orders to shut down businesses at shopping centres in high-density suburbs.

In the central business district of Harare, the situation was calm with some sizeable number of businesses and shops operating in the morning before they closed around midday. Except for Harare and Bulawayo, the two biggest cities, little agitation was recorded elsewhere in the country. The situation continued yesterday. Here are five key facts and four myths the world should know about the Zimbabwe situation:

Fact #1: Political ploy Contrary to the narrative that this week's "shutdown" is a civic movement and consumer protest against the rising cost of living, including the recent hike in fuel prices, the shutdown was a political expression carried out by the opposition MDC-Alliance and its partners in Western-funded civic organisations fronted by the Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe, an umbrella body of anti-government NGOs.

There was prior planning to cause unrest with the objects of forcing at least a "Government of National Unity" agreement between the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition.

Fact #2: Triumph of terror Most affected people in Harare and Bulawayo kept away from business and school and other activities for fear of their lives and safety of their property. Apart from violence and intimidation, recorded incidents included arson, beatings and murder. Shop owners and traders have previously lost wares worth thousands of dollars to looters.

Fact #3: Familiar faces, places There is a reason why the disturbances seen in the media have been a Harare and Bulawayo thing. These are traditional opposition MDC strongholds where structures of violence are organic and have been activated from time-to-time. In Harare, for example, Epworth, Mabvuku, Chitungwiza, Mufakose and Kuwadzana are known opposition hotbeds that have a long history of rioting anti-government sentiment. There were no major incidents in the other cities in Zimbabwe in Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare as well as towns elsewhere.

The conduct and behaviour of those involved in skirmishes in the identified hotspots. Some well-known individuals were seen to be participating in the mayhem or encouraging it on social media. Equally, on the Sunday, it is understood that the old structure in the opposition were activated for violence and disruption.

Fact #4: Freedom fare — freedom to destroy Contrary to the perception that the State is repressive and heavy-handed in Zimbabwe, events on Monday and Tuesday indicates that violent thugs and ragtag warriors have actually been allowed to terrorise residents, blockade roads and cause lawlessness in the suburbs. While a case may be made about the tactics of authorities, especially the police, it is rather vexatious freedoms appeared to be extended to brigands to become some lords of violence in the suburbs and disturb the peace of people. A legitimate interest now concerns an inquiry as to whether some authorities — especially junior police officers — are complicit in this week's and other skirmishes where opposition thugs have allowed to roam free without the sanction of the law and interest of the national security interest.

Fact #5: Political social media

There is little doubt in Zimbabwe and elsewhere that social media platforms such as WhatsApp Messenger, Twitter and Facebook are playing an increasingly important role in the organisation of anti-Government protests. Similarly, on Monday, especially, social media was used not only for organisational purposes, including by public figures and personalities that either encouraged the violence or discouraged it. By spreading pictures and information on skirmishes, social media was also used to create a sense of bandwagonism to encourage participation with a view to making the country ungovernable.

Myth #1: Spontaneous skirmishes While it is convenient for supporters of this week's mayhem, including foreign media, to frame the disturbances as a spontaneous response to the fuel price hike announced by Government on Saturday night, it is known that these protests had long been planned and part of a grand political scheme to withhold legitimacy from President Mnangagwa who won elections held mid-year last year. The objects of the actions are to render the country ungovernable and to disturb peace and tranquillity that would enable investment and growth.

Myth #2: MDC-Alliance not involved On Monday, MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa distanced himself from the skirmishes, with his party earlier having placed responsibility on the civil society and labour body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

We have been down that road before. The signs and actions of protestors and foot soldiers are a story on themselves. They chanted MDC Alliance slogans, Chamisa's name and raised the open palm symbol associated with the party. Just like on August 1 last year when a similar action ended in grave disaster. Only then, as now, Chamisa tried to dissociate himself from people who sang his name as the soundtrack of mayhem and destruction. More qualitatively, MDC-Alliance personalities such as Charlton Hwende and Patson Dzamara thanked the anarchists on social media for a good job, at the end of the day.

Myth #3: Workers of Zimbabwe The majority of the illegal acts committed on Monday and Tuesday were done clearly by people who are unemployed and in some cases homeless sponsored to champion destruction with little accountability. Workers would be happy staying away but had no business barricading roads and extorting motorists. They also had no business looting their shops or destroying wares and factories. And true to form, the thugs doing duty were heavily intoxicated.

Myth #4 Nationwide Protestors and hooligans involved in this week's agitation came from pockets in Harare and Bulawayo which is neither nationwide nor representative. Even where the opposition — the architects of the terror — enjoy majority or considerable support the acts of lawlessness were not recorded. At this point, even the narrative that hardship — including the rise in the cost of fuel — caused protests falls away. It cannot be discounted that Zimbabweans are feeling the knock of the economic situation which is to be located in a historical and political context. However, the resort to violence has never been an option for the majority civilian population.

Source - the herald
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