Nqaba Matshazi

LAST Saturday afternoon, news that Tafadzwa Tamangani had died in remand prison started filtering in, with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) presenting documentation showing they had pleaded with authorities to have him released so he could be attended by a private doctor.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears.

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) declined to release him and ultimately Tamangani succumbed to injuries resulting from alleged police torture.

I had never heard of him before his death was announced, but I felt my heart sinking and it made me sick, as his death was certainly avoidable had the authorities just followed the law.

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So far this year, the government has been sued several times over wrongful deaths and you would think that the authorities would learn something.

But it seems they are impervious to knowledge and they will stick to their crass tactics no matter the circumstances nor the results.

On Monday, I watched in utter horror as police officers unleashed their truncheons on activists that were singing outside the courts protesting the death of Tamangani.

No matter how annoying they were to the authorities, the activists posed no threat to anyone, they were going about their business in a peaceful and orderly manner.

But in their wisdom, or lack of it, the police saw it fit to clamp down heavily on the activists, indiscriminately using their batons on them and detaining them in cells overnight.

Surely, there is no place for such heavy-handedness in a country that wants to shed its pariah status and there would have been no harm had the protest continued.

But we are led by a paranoid government that is afraid of people thinking for themselves or coming together for a common purpose.

This is a government that prefers conformity and sees anything else as an act of dissidence.

This is a government that claims it was voted into power by the people but is frightened at the prospect of the very same citizens exercising their rights.

They will go to every length to break protests, bar people from expressing themselves and above all instil fear in the hearts and minds of every Zimbabwean.

This lot will do anything to preserve power, not for our sakes, but for themselves even if it includes violating every aspect of our rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Right now, it seems they are the only ones allowed to demonstrate, as they use all manner of tactics to bar the opposition from demonstrating.

As it is, the MDC applied to have a demonstration today and it was predictably blocked yet the government goes ahead with its tomfoolery known as the anti-sanctions march.

In what sounds like a sick joke, the day has been declared a national holiday, with supporters expected to march from just outside the Rotten Row Magistrates’ Court — the scene of the dastardly attack on peaceful activists — to the National Sports Stadium.

I cannot, with a clear conscience be part of this march, as it stands for everything that is wrong with this country — impunity, abuse, lack of accountability and complete disregard for human rights.

If I wanted to be part of something, attending Tamangani’s funeral is a much more meaningful exercise. A family has lost a father, brother, son and breadwinner in one of the most cruel ways and they deserve our solidarity.

I would rather visit MDC’s Malbereign councillor, Denford Ngadziore and activist Makomborero Haruzivishe, who were brutally assaulted by police officers outside court and find out how they are coping.

Those 10 other vendors that were arrested with Tamangani need counselling, they witnessed their colleague’s death and that episode must be playing havoc with their minds.
Their psychological well-being is far more important than a meaningless march.

Instead of attending tomorrow’s march, my time would be better spent commiserating with people that have seen their relatives dying because there are no doctors in hospitals since the government does not see paying the health workers a living wage as a priority.

Tomorrow would rather be a day when we all take stock of the harm that corruption has brought on this country from Command Agriculture to the Presidential Inputs Scheme that have somewhat contributed to the economic turmoil that Zimbabwe is going through.

Corruption, nepotism, cronyism and parochial back-patting by those in power have wrought more suffering to Zimbabwe than drought and sanctions will ever.

So, if ever I needed a reason to march, I will march to call for an end to government-sanctioned corruption and malfeasance.

I will be the first one on the street to march against sanctions if the authorities show a commitment to arresting everyone that is accused of corruption rather than this charade where they only go after political enemies.

If the authorities can show that they protect our rights and defend our freedoms, no matter how politically unpalatable, then I will gladly sing the anti-sanctions song.

If the government takes responsibility for Gukurahundi, apologises for Murambatsvina, accounts for activists Patrick Nabanyama, Paul Chizuze and Itai Dzamara and guarantees freedom of association and expression, then you will find me at the forefront of an anti-sanctions demo.

If the government prosecutes those who killed Kelvin Tinashe Choto, Tamangani and Sylvia Maphosa among a whole list of people who have been unjustly killed in the past 15 months, maybe the anti-sanctions march may be appealing to me.

But for now, the anti-sanctions march is an elaborate waste of time by a group of people that do not want to take responsibility for their actions and for that reason I will not be anywhere near that charade.