In­deed there is a log in Un­cle Sam’s eye

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion - Ta­fara Shumba

THE out­ra­geous state­ments re­cently made by the US on the ri­otous demon­stra­tions by the op­po­si­tion that rocked Harare last week raise se­ri­ous sus­pi­cion of col­lab­o­ra­tion, a de­vel­op­ment that pro­vides ad­e­quate grounds for the read­ing of a riot act.

Zim­babwe can­not con­tinue to fold arms while the US sticks its oar in the in­ter­nal af­fairs un­der the delu­sion of a big brother mind­set. It’s in­con­ceiv­able for the Zim­bab­wean em­bassy in the US to pass sim­i­lar com­ments in Wash­ing­ton, New York, Can­berra or Ot­tawa.

The US, Cana­dian and Aus­tralian em­bassies in Zim­babwe gave sep­a­rate state­ments in which they sup­ported the vi­o­lent pro­tes­tors and tore into the Zim­babwe Repub­lic Po­lice for restor­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in Harare’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict.

“The United States is trou­bled by the eco­nomic poli­cies and fi­nan­cial strains that have prompted nu­mer­ous re­cent protests in Zim­babwe and we join many Zim­bab­weans in their deep con­cern over re­ports of vi­o­lence dur­ing some of the protests,” reads the US em­bassy state­ment re­leased last Fri­day.

The Cana­dian em­bassy also re­leased a state­ment that failed to veil their emo­tional at­tach­ment to the muti­nous protests by the op­po­si­tion par­ties. “The em­bassy re­it­er­ates its call on the gov­ern­ment of Zim­babwe to make ev­ery ef­fort to en­sure that pub­lic polic­ing and jus­tice are con­sis­tent with the gov­ern­ment’s con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to re­spect ba­sic hu­man rights and free­dom,” reads the Cana­dian Em­bassy’s state­ment.

The Aus­tralian am­bas­sador to Zim­babwe Suzanne McCourt said her em­bassy shared with Zim­bab­weans con­cerns at the vi­o­lence which re­cently oc­curred.

“The use of vi­o­lence is not ac­cept­able un­der any cir­cum­stance. The Aus­tralian em­bassy wishes to em­pha­sise that the rule of law, re­spect for hu­man rights, right to free speech, free­dom of assem­bly and other demo­cratic free­doms are at the heart of the Zim­bab­wean Con­sti­tu­tion and must be re­spected by all par­ties,” she said.

With such kind of care­less state­ments, who will re­fute al­le­ga­tions of a Western hand in the protests? We are all in agree­ment on the need to re­spect hu­man rights. How­ever, the US and its sur­ro­gate side­kicks think that the only hu­man rights that need to be re­spected are those of the mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion par­ties.

The law en­force­ment agents used the law­ful min­i­mum force in re­sponse to se­ri­ous provo­ca­tions and un­ruly con­duct that had be­come a se­ri­ous se­cu­rity threat. The US em­bassy was watch­ing glee­fully while the ruffians de­spoil goods from shops and ven­dors. They winked at the hood­lums as they burnt prop­erty, pelted the po­lice with all sorts of weaponry and beat in­no­cent cit­i­zens who were do­ing their apo­lit­i­cal busi­ness to eke a liv­ing.

The US had hoped that the un­fin­ished project that had be­come a thorn in their fresh since its com­mence­ment in 2000 was al­most com­ing to fi­nal­ity, the Arab Spring way. For­tu­nately the vig­i­lant po­lice moved in to ward off the riot and those law­ful ac­tions ex­pect­edly brought forth the kind of state­ments re­leased on Fri­day. Many hench­men had been de­ployed to Harare to un­der­take the project with­out suc­cess and Harry Thomas would have etched his name in his­tory of US had the White House suc­ceeded.

A Mu­fakose widow whose wares were all pil­laged has no rights. The child who will not go to school next month be­cause the source of his school fees was ei­ther burnt or looted has no rights and so are the up-and-com­ing busi­ness­peo­ple whose shops were bur­gled. For sure, cit­i­zens have a right to demon­strate in terms of sec­tion 59 of the Con­sti­tu­tion but dur­ing the course of ex­er­cis­ing those rights, they must not tram­ple on the rights of other cit­i­zens es­pe­cially those who have noth­ing to do with their demon­stra­tions.

The US must learn to re­spect hu­man be­ings de­spite their so­cial stand­ing. Hu­man rights must not be se­lec­tively re­spected. The agony that a mogul goes through after los­ing his Range Rover in an ac­ci­dent is the same that a tod­dler ex­pe­ri­ences upon the loss of a toy car. The ven­dors and other in­for­mal traders lost their life sav­ings to the hooli­gans and their pain is no dif­fer­ent from the one whose whole fac­tory is gut­ted by fire.

The US em­bassy said that the eco­nomic poli­cies and fi­nan­cial strains im­pelled the protests. We thought the protests in ques­tions had to do with elec­toral re­forms where the op­po­si­tion un­der the ban­ner of the Na­tional Elec­toral Re­form Agenda (NERA) wanted to march and pre­sent a pe­ti­tion to the Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion! One won­ders why they failed to send a del­e­gate to Zec with that pe­ti­tion.

In any case, the worst hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion wit­nessed in Zim­babwe stem from the il­le­gal sanc­tions that the US im­posed on Zim­babwe. The cit­i­zens of Zim­babwe are suf­fer­ing as a re­sult of those sanc­tions. Thus, the US does not have a moral ground to lec­ture any­body on hu­man rights. Its ter­ror in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Guan­tanamo Bay, among oth­ers, will tell that the US is not a hu­man right re­specter.

Of late, the US po­lice have been gun­ning down African-Amer­i­cans for un­jus­ti­fied rea­sons. Kim­berly Kindy, an in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter at the Wash­ing­ton Post, re­vealed that the po­lice kill three peo­ple a day with blacks be­ing shot at a rate that is 2.5 times higher than whites. Ac­cord­ing to find­ings of a 2015 study ti­tled Map­ping Po­lice Vi­o­lence, the US po­lice killed at least 102 un­armed black peo­ple in 2015. The study re­vealed that only 10 of the 102 cases re­sulted in of­fi­cer be­ing charged with a crime and only two of these deaths re­sulted in con­vic­tions of of­fi­cers in­volved. One of them was sen­tenced to just a year in jail which he served ex­clu­sively on week­ends.

Thus, the US can­not lec­ture any­one on po­lice bru­tal­ity. It must re­move the plank in its own eyes first be­fore try­ing to re­move a speck in Zim­babwe’s eyes. That plank blights its vi­sion to an ex­tent that it sees hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions where no vi­o­la­tions ex­ist. In Sierra Leone, for in­stance, the po­lice killed two de­mon­stra­tors in a protest on Au­gust 16 but the US was not as vit­ri­olic as it is to Zim­babwe where not even a sin­gle demon­stra­tor came out with a scratch.

Po­lice use wa­ter can­nons to dis­perse protesters who had em­barked on a trail of de­struc­tion in Harare re­cently

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