The Sunday News
Richard R Mahomva
THE co-existence of political dissent is healthy for any political set-up. However, it is risky to reduce the density of political dissent to the narrowest of extremes of allowing certain political actors to arrogate universally applying principles to service their exclusive political interests. Somehow in the social media discursive space everything Zanu-PF only represents evil and epitomises the totality of the problems faced by the country.
On the contrary, the MDC-Alliance is utterly sanitised as the embodiment of desired alternative of Zanu-PF. This constitutes the urban narrative endorsed hypocrisy of imaging the contested nature of political truths in Zimbabwe. This is the simplistic and generalised constructed vilification of Zanu-PF as an all-evil entity, while the MDC-Alliance is constructed as an absolute agent for good.
There is an acute failure to contest and test ideas in a manner which is devoid of the generic labelling of facts as either Zanu-PF or MDC crusted. Until and unless we know that human rights are universal and that they apply to both MDC and Zanu-PF supporters, then the role of state apparatuses in the whole matrix of demonstrations will be fully and positively appreciated.
Regardless of the need to safeguard its power consolidation interests, the State has a paternal role to protect every citizen including its opponents. This is why security elements will not be washed away from the whole equation of safeguarding national peace. It must not be ignored that state security is mandated to apply retributory measures to those found trespassing on the rights of others.
This is a standard mark of state security credibility across the globe and this is not unique to Zimbabwe. However, public reason is dominated by an immoderate deal of tailor-made biases meant to satisfy the criminality opposition organised violence.
This has been a fundamental obstruction for many to understanding that the continued violence and plunder associated with MDC-Alliance demonstrations is not justified. This is why basic principles of safeguarding peace by the State are misrepresented to give moral validation to the opposition’s lawlessness. In the process, functionaries and organs of the State such as the police, military and judiciary are ridiculed as default mercenaries of repressing the freedoms of the opposition.
There is also a misguided position to overlook the proximity of civil society to the opposition. It’s as if the ruling party is naturally supposed to succumb to the vulnerability of isolation and defenceless yet the opposition gains support from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
The ruling party is constantly alleged of abusing public entities to secure its power and yet CSOs have been constantly caught on the wrong side of reinforcing opposition interests at the expense of their constitutional parameters to be apolitical. This indicates that all political parties are not immune to clandestinely exercising the “necessary evil” of pragmatism. However, it’s only problematic when Zanu-PF is found in bed with the public and yet the romantic agenda of CSOs with the opposition is tolerated as normal.
Besides the “reasonable grounds” found by state security agencies to ban the MDC-Alliance demonstration which was scheduled for 16 August, history has proved that the supposed ‘‘peaceful march’’ was going to degenerate to violence. While opposition apologists firmly disassociate the MDC-Alliance from the 1 August violence and the 14 January stay-away, the instigating stimuli of the Chamisa Party to these demonstrations cannot be dismissed. The tone and the objectives of the 1 August 2018 and 14 January riots respectively were summed up in the listed justifications of the 16 August demo. The deliberate spacing of these protests is not a mistake.
Again it is not a coincidence that exactly a year after the post-election protest Harare had to burn on the 16th. The subtle, but principal motive of this choreographed coincidence could have been aimed at giving a false impression of a perennial manifestation of State violence in the hands of Zanu-PF. The underpinning logic to this effect is to give credence to the one-sided narrative about the State’s abuse of the military to crush opposition.
This follows the widespread vilification of the military’s intervention in the 1 August protest. Therefore, the idea to convene the recent demonstration was an attempt to invite further castigation of the State in the event that the protest and its inherent violence was met with resistance by the military. It is unfortunate that the demonstration was prohibited and a greater part of the potential rioters were arrested by fear to take part in this protest.
This failed demo was aimed at ritualising the memory of the 1 August terror; at the same time dismantling the momentum of the national Heroes and Defence Forces celebrations. The 16 August demonstration might have been organised to invalidate due public considerations to celebrate the first anniversary of the Second Republic. This hypothesis is sufficiently amplified by the objectives of this protest which embodied the common opposition anecdote deployed in discrediting the ruling Zanu-PF.
The smearing overdrive by the opposition is also noted in the interpretation of the symbols of the 16 August demonstration. The widely circulating pictures of the recent demonstration captured by one Lovejoy Mutungwazi have been a key source of pointing out police violence. The innocence of this photographic coverage of the demonstration is ignored, no one bothers to find the meaning of the audacity of the journalist to appendage their name on these photos which are now being used to castigate State security. None seems to acknowledge the journalist’s surety to freedom by giving fair coverage of issues in a country which is largely condemned of repressing freedom of expression.
The fact that we have many other journalists like Lovejoy Mutungwazi making a similar contribution to the practice of independent and real-time coverage of political events broadly expresses the liberty of the media. While the story by Mutungwazi’s genius camera lenses have been generously misread as proof of Zimbabwe being characterised as a police State, the social media mass opinion is selective on appreciating the constitutional prerogative of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to disperse unauthorised marches. This followed the dismissal of the MDC-Alliance’s agent chamber application to conduct the demo.
Moreover, many are failing to appreciate the cautionary disciplinary output of the police force as depicted in photo journalism. The whole aspect of “minimal force” which was implemented in dispersing the crowds is not acknowledged as a follow-up to assessing the State’s adherence to the recommendations of the 1 August Commission of Enquiry.
In another photo, journalists are captured all crowded around a protester who was on the ground. A general observer can note that the stampede by these journalists was an evident and desperate race to capture the hot scoop of the day. There is no doubt that the same scene was made viral so as to criminalise the police who were rightfully performing their duties.
This explains the magnitude of narrative imbalance in the cosmopolitan public sphere. We need to work towards rationalising the under-currencies of political processes so as to appreciate democracy in its entirety and not an entitlement of those opposed to the Government. Principles of democracy apply to all sides of the political divide.