Sanctions petition – “my people love me”

OPINION – One of the most comical quotes for 2011 came from none other than embattled Colonel Gaddafi when he bellowed in front of world cameras “My people love me, they will die to protect me”.

This was despite all indications pointing to the very opposite. Before this statement, very few of us knew that people could express love for their dear leader by terribly eroding his confidence and seriously neutralising his power base as they did recently starting with Bengazi.
 
Closer to home, we hear that in Harare, people turned up in multitudes in support of a clearly futile charade against targeted sanctions. We are also told that the demonstration was largely peaceful with police saying there were no major incidents. This is great news coming from a country where only a few days ago, 45 people were rounded up, incarcerated and tortured for watching and discussing videos from some distant part of Africa. How less than fifty people crammed in a small room somewhere in Harare could pose a national risk while thousands who turned up for the anti-sanctions crusade were never a threat to anyone, is a quite a paradox. Let’s hope these “formidable” numbers will translate into votes, come next elections.
 
If the ZRP and other security organs have all of a sudden discovered that Zimbabweans are a peaceful people who can responsibly gather in vast numbers without necessarily being a security threat, then we hope to see those who will organise a demonstration against other burning national issues such as political violence, selective application of the rule of law, corruption, unemployment, violation of the GPA and so on, enjoying the same kind of police protection as we saw on March 2 in Harare. If this happens, it will be time to celebrate the genesis of the long march towards a free and ideal society where all citizens are free to express themselves without fear of state-sponsored reprisals.
 
Let there be no prescribed template for demonstrations. Those who want to rise in millions against sanctions, let them feel free to do so. Also, those who would like to raise their voices against hate speech propagated primarily by state media, in particular ZBC, closure of rural schools by misguided hoodlums masquerading as war veterans, should be allowed to enjoy the same freedom. It will be nice to see a lead story in the state media “Thousands march peacefully against police brutality” or something similar.
 
If anything, the anti-sanctions grandstanding desperately designed to capture world cameras with the view to portray that “my people love me”, has further confirmed the presumption that some citizens are more equal than others, depending on which side of politics they belong to. How does a nation achieve prosperity where security apparatus act as if they were an extension of some political party?
 
The most encouraging possibility about this latest development is that in future, those who want to express themselves openly may simply use the anti-sanctions agenda as a pretext to mobilise protesters, once momentum has been gathered, the message changes without necessarily being violent. It will be interesting to see how the police will react.
 
“We cannot get farming inputs because of these sanctions” said one of the hired demonstrators who must be one of the unproductive beneficiaries of the chaotic land reform program with no clue of how economies work, let alone the business of farming. I don’t remember when Zimbabwe ever imported fertiliser or seed from Europe, America, Australia or New Zealand. At a time when our farmers were most productive, the cattle kraal was a ready source of rich natural fertiliser. Have Western sanctions blown away dung from our kraals? Our parents and grand parents used to reserve a bag of peanuts after harvest to be planted during the next rainy season, have sanctions destroyed this traditional method? What happened to Farmers Corp or Seed Co? Have they been taken away by imperialists? How about the three hundred million dollars (or was it Rand) pledged by our friendly southern neighbour? Have Western sanctions wiped off such generous promises as well?
 
Will ordinary citizens start to afford a decent meal simply because a few individuals have been granted the liberty to gallivant across the globe? Will unemployment drop to 5% because a few privileged gentlemen can go shopping for designer suits in Italy? Will our industries start operating at full capacity because an insignificant number of connected ladies can fly to France every month for exotic lipstick and perfume? This reminds me of a joke about Dr. Mzee (RIP) who is said to have perplexed listeners at a rally when he confidently declared “We can’t get enough rains anymore because of Forex shortages”.
 
The one message that must sink is that even 13 million signatures will not dictate how sovereign countries across the globe should relate to a few individuals in Zimbabwe. If the gimmick was to have a well attended rally disguised as anti-sanctions petition, organisers have reasons to smile, if it was about removal of sanctions as we know them, for as long as certain practices and attitudes prevail, we can only say good luck!!!
 
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