One person recently said at a conference on online journalism, “Show me a society without free media and I will show you a dictatorship.” I remembered this statement as a colleague and I tried to figure how we were going to cover Zimbabwe’s Independence Day celebrations at Gwanzura Stadium in one of the capital city’s sprawling townships.
To do journalism in Zimbabwe you need to be registered with a government-controlled body, the Media and Information Commission (MIC). The MIC, so innocuously named, is packed with ruling party stalwarts and my colleague had been denied accreditation for sometime. Now he was doing all sorts of jobs including selling tomatoes! He was more worried about the kind of environment his daughter would grow up in rather than my urgent request.
I thank you friend for your guts and chutzpah. You helped me get what I wanted – understanding what drives ZANU-PF lunatics. I got that experience from the group of ZANU youths we gave a ride to the stadium and listened to their songs and conversation; to the intelligence officer who came up to me as I took pictures and asked simply “Tingazivane?” (May we know each other?). Menacing simplicity. I also felt the power of the gun as we went through five different security checkpoints at the stadium – air force, national army, military police, plainclothes police and central intelligence officers. As Mugabe’s entourage entered the stadium with wailing sirens, soldiers running in front of the black Mercedes limousine, and the MC hailing the crowd to cheer, I knew we were in for a bloody struggle. The looting class was not going to give up their goldmine easily. We have tried the ballot box and got screwed…
These are not photos to enjoy. They are pictures that tell a story of how one person can create hell on earth and weave a story of a revolution at war with global imperialism and local puppets. But Mugabe is not leading a revolution. There is no coherent ideology – only downright looting, suppression of people’s will, rule with impunity and voodoo economics. The emperor has no clothes!
As we fight for a new Zimbabwe I recall Ayi Kwei Armah’s haunting words in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (sic):
The listening mind is disturbed by memories from the past. So much time has passed but still no sweetness here…
Chris Kabwato – Project Coordinator
Download Edition 6