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It's more criminal 'bombing' a train than calling for peaceful protests!

14 May 2023 at 13:36hrs | Views
As the Zimbabwe government incarcerates more and more opposition and human rights activists - a single question keeps cropping up.

Is it more dangerous today for anti-government activists than it was under the colonial establishment?

Surely, why would someone like opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume be sentenced to an effective three years in prison for merely calling for protests against corruption in Zimbabwe?

Is the 'fight against corruption' not supposed to be one of the key priorities of the President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration?

At least that is what they want everyone to believe!

This, in spite of such horrifying scandals as the so-called 'Gold Mafia' and numerous others - where the country is losing billions of dollars to looting and smuggling of our minerals, as well as pillaging of state coffers - largely at the hands of those in power, or aligned to them.

So, how has calling for protests ever translated into 'inciting violence'?

In fact, soon after this shocking judgement was passed by Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka on 28th April 2023 - there were the expected ruling ZANU PF party fanatics who heralded this as a fair and just conviction.

Some even went as far as sharing social media posts made by Ngarivhume, in which he urged Zimbabweans to protest (on 30 July 2020) against rampart corruption in the country.

Judging by the profound excitement exhibited by these sycophants, they genuinely believed that such calls were tantamount to 'inciting public violence', if not downright treasonous.

Of course, I went through these social media posts - thinking that maybe I would come across something which I had previously missed - only to be thoroughly disappointed to find that, in all these statements, there was never any incidence where he ever instigated anyone to violent acts.

It would seem that, to these ruling party supporters, the mere call for 'protests' was actually incitement to violence, and enough justification for incarceration.

I began wondering if, for some strange reason, our people in Zimbabwe - and, in this case, judicial officers and ZANU PF - had challenges fully grasping the meaning of the term 'protest'.

Surely, what else is anyone to think?

Nonetheless, in pure English, the word 'protest' simply means, 'a statement or action expressing disproval of or objection to something'.

Nowhere in this most unambiguous definition is the word 'violence' (or, any other with similar connotations) ever included as central to 'protesting'.

So, how did some sections of Zimbabwean society arrive at the disturbing conclusion that Ngarivhume was urging people to be violent?

Indeed, 'expressing one's disapproval of or objection to something' can either be done peacefully or violently.

Nonetheless, there needs to be an express indication of violent intentions, should anyone be accused of 'inciting public violence' in calls for protests.

As with Ngarivhume - something inadvertently also repeated by these supporters as they excitedly shared his social media posts - he even went to the unnecessary extent of emphasizing these protests to the 'peaceful'.

I say this was unnecessary, since the definition of 'protest' (as highlighted earlier) does not automatically translate to violent action - so, there is absolutely no need to qualify this term.

In other words, the term 'protest' is interchangeable with 'demonstration or demonstrate' - which also does not equate to 'violence'.

That is why those in the media are trained to indicate when a protest or demonstration turned violent - as 'violent protests' or 'violent demonstrations' - since these would have deviated from the expected norm.

Therefore, it is extremely difficult to understand how such calls for protests by Ngarivhume - which, in other posts he clearly qualified as 'peaceful protests' - could have ended up being misinterpreted as 'inciting public violence'.

Or, was this simply an attempt at justifying the oppression of those daring to oppose the ruling establishment, and standing up for their rights - regardless of how peaceful the stance taken?

Does such repression not put credence to those who assert that our so-called 'independent Zimbabwe' government is actually more repressive and intolerant towards dissent and opposition than our erstwhile colonial masters?

As a matter of fact, when our nationalist leaders were jailed during that era - was it not because of committing acts that would, undoubtedly, be considered criminal in any jurisdiction under the sun - and, jailable offenses even in today's 'independent Zimbabwe'?

For instance, although there has never been any evidence proffered for this act to have ever actually taken place - when Mnangagwa allegedly 'bombed' a locomotive during the liberation struggle, was he not supposedly sentenced to death - only to be saved from the hangman's noose due to his young age?

If indeed this event happened - which he loves touting as an act of sheer bravery, and outstanding contribution to the independence cause - was that not violence and sabotage, carried out as an act of insurgency?

If I were to pull a stunt like that today - in 'independent Zimbabwe' - would I not find myself, justifiably so, under lock and key at a maximum security prison?

Regardless of how legitimate the cause for independence and majority rule was - which, had I been old enough, would have proudly taken part - the fact still remains that these were criminal activities, that are even still serious offenses today, both in Zimbabwe and the rest of the world.

In other words, during the colonial period, our gallant fighters for independence were jailed for acts that were criminal by any definition.

How about today?

What crime did people as Ngarivhume commit?

Why was he jailed for three years?

Under which jurisdiction on this planet is it a crime for one to merely urge suffering citizens to 'protest' against the rampant disgraceful corruption - mainly by those in the echelons of power - that has caused their poverty?

Furthermore, this becomes really troubling when the said protests are actually enshrined, protected and guaranteed in the country's supreme law, the Constitution - under Section 59, whereby 'everyone has a right to demonstrate and present petitions', but exercised in a peaceful manner.

Therefore, what was, and is, wrong in calling for Zimbabweans to engage in protests - unless, of course, when explicitly urging for violence?

Nevertheless, as already established, protests in their own right, by definition, do not involve any violence.

Is it not a shame that our own post-colonial leaders - who love reminding everyone of how they 'liberated us' - have become worse brutal oppressors than those they always characterize as 'brutal oppressors'?

Where is this 'independence' they constantly shove down our throats?

What is the point of 'freedom' when it is in name and on paper only - yet, in reality, we are still being subjugated and marginalized, if not worse now, by those who claim to be our 'liberators'?

At least, under colonial rule, most of those who were imprisoned had actually committed crimes that even today are still jailable offenses anywhere in the world.

Again, I ask - so, what crime did Ngarivhume commit by simply calling for protests against a kleptomaniac repressive regime?

Or, was that the 'crime'?

Is speaking out and standing up against an intolerant brutal regime the 'crime'?

- Tenda Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:

Source - Tenda Ruben Mbofana
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