Catching up in lockdown

IN ANOTHER LIFE? An Argentine correspondent researching the matter tells me that one Angus Shaw was shot dead with 40 of his fellow anarchists on December 8, 1921 in a peasant rebellion in Santa Cruz in Patagonia, crushed by Colonel Hector Benigno Varela’s government cavalry. As many as 1,500 protesters were killed, many later by firing squad, including the anarchists, to end the uprising. Like leftist and rightist volunteers who went to fight on either side in fascist Gen. Franco’s Spanish civil war, foreign and European sympathisers went to support the peasants in Argentina, Chile and Peru. They were known as anarchists or “anarcho-communist-syndicalists.” I have been called many things in my time but in the next life, wherever that may be, I’ll see whether I could ever have been an anarcho-communist-syndicalist too.

I think a bullet generally goes faster than the speed of sound and hits you before you hear the shot. I’ll ask the executed Angus Shaw about that in the next life.

I wonder about it more as our Zimbabwe police and army are on the streets, armed to the teeth and brandishing AK47 automatic rifles, to suppress people from demonstrating against corruption and misrule.There are overhanging trees outside my little suburban house and when supple branches are struck by tall trucks passing by to avoid roadblocks on the main streets they whip and crack like gunshots.  (photo: ‘ Suspected anarchists’ arrested in Argentina in 1921.)

SOME SUGGESTIONS I was a bit of a chump for thinking the military air activity on Friday was a further show of force and firepower when the army and police were shutting down the country to stop demonstrations against misrule and corruption.

Silly me. The fighter jet and choppers were rehearsing and then carrying out a fly past above the state funeral with military honours of the departed minister declared national hero Perence Shirl, former guerrilla leader and Zimbabwe air force commander otherwise known as Black Jesus and the Butcher of Matabeland for dispatching so many civilians from the mortal coil in the most horrific ways.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t recall Gen. Solomon Mujuru, always senior to Shiri, getting a fly past at his understated military funeral after dying in a mysterious and still unresolved fire at his farm. Mujuru had erred from the ruling party line by then.Shiri is said to have died from Corona, but his family said they wanted a post mortem report after he vomited blood, not a common symptom of Covid but more of poisoning.Just look at these military pall bearers on Friday, fully PPE protected, in “space suits,” compared to the rags, torn and soiled bedsheets and privately-bought masks used by our ordinary public health staff, most of whom are now on strike over ridiculously low pay, lack of protection, equipment and medicine in state institutions. 

Last week, seven newborn babies died in a day in just one undermanned and drug-less maternity unit. Residents of poor townships in the main cities say military helicopters were flying low over these perceived opposition strongholds all of Friday, rehearsing for the Shiri two-minute fly past?

WHAT, BY THE WAY, is incitement to violence? Seeming to invite retaliatory and even pre-emptive action from loyalists ahead of proposed demonstrations against corruption and misrule, our ruling party spokesman Patrick Chinamasa said:

“Zanu PF calls upon our supporters, cadres and sympathisers, wherever you are, to remain alert and ready to defend yourselves, defend our people, their property and most importantly defend peace in your communities …”

Loyalists “must know that when they are being attacked, law enforcement agents might not be near. In those circumstances, their first line of defence is themselves and their families. They have a legal and constitutional right to defend themselves. Don’t ask for permission from anybody, it’s your constitutional and legal right.

“Don’t be like sitting ducks … No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves.”

Of course, he says nothing about constitutional rights of association and freedom of speech that allow peaceful protests on matters of governance but instead calls US ambassador Brian Nichols a “thug” who is funding unrest. Hate speech and incitement are crimes under the constitution. Nothing happened to Chinamasa, of course, but those who tried to report the crimes to the police were themselves either arrested or threatened with arrest.

IN THE FIRESTORM over arrests of brave, campaigning journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition activist Jacob Ngarivhume over their exposure of corruption that has impoverished the ordinary population, our state propagandists are trying to imply on Twitter that it is okay in the outside world to arrest people like Julian Assange, so what’s all the fuss about? Taking everything into account, it’s a ridiculous comparison.

FIND ANY COUNTRY in the world not at war that has a 12-hour dusk to dawn curfew like the one Zimbabwe has imposed indefinitely. South Africa, Zambia and Kenya have curfews generally from mid-evening (generally 8.00 or 9.00 pm) to the early hours (around 4.00 am). Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, India, Serbia and several others have all relaxed their curfews despite uncertainty over continuing virus infections. Our army and police have already been out in force around the clock to chase alleged lockdown violators off the streets with threats, beatings and arrests.

IN ZIMBABWE’S BANKRUPT and tumbling economy we are being robbed in every way, not only by massive corruption but in the tiniest way too. Chinese toothpicks – average contents part has been cut off the top off the local bar code label and the container is clearly more than half empty. The resealing with sellotape has been so clumsily done. The culprits clearly don’t give a damn about it. Just as with all corruption, we are taken for fools. The shop says they will investigate. Whose unhygienic hands have done this anyway? Happy toothpicking, tooth pickers. I don’t think. Beware. If it’s happening with the humble bamboo tooth pick, it’s happening everywhere. Short measures for higher prices – when inflation is roaring ahead, conservatively at 780 percent but more likely double that, second only to Venezuela.

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