Archive | November, 2014

The Zimbabwe Republic Police is just out of touch with young Zimbabweans!

11 Nov

The Zimbabwe Republic Police is just out of touch with young Zimbabweans!.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police is just out of touch with young Zimbabweans!

11 Nov

So, Saturday 8 November 2014 was supposed to be a big day for Zimbabwean young ragga and dancehall artistes. A big show dubbed “Sting” had been organized for all the top dancehall artistes at the Harare City Sports Center. The carnival atmosphere was all but spoiled when the summer party descended into scenes resembling a battle field and 5 reported fatalities. It is futile at this point to point fingers but definitely the behavior of the youth who thronged the stadium was  deplorable, however the usual high – handedness with which the ZRP tried to control the raucous youths was severely brutal and reflected unprofessional tendencies bordering on violent criminal tendencies.

The perception that young people who are in the Zim Dancehall music industry are rowdy drunkards and usually high on marijuana is just flawed. While it cannot be excused, the abuse of toxic substances by young people in most societies is now a given and there is no reason for Zimbabweans to pretend as if this culture is non – existent. So for any older Zimbabwean to continue condemning these young people is futile and unhelpful. What these young people need is a sense of direction and leadership from older generations not just condemnation.

The music industry in Zimbabwe has made significant albeit small contributions to the teetering economy. Ask the Minister of Finance, ask the local bar owner, and ask the young people who are producing this Popopo music day in day out. For the police to descend on a show where these young people are trying to raise money for their own use and in their small ways resuscitate the nearly comatose Zimbabwean economy is wrong and irresponsible.

Reports coming in from the Saturday show point to a painful fact that the youths who thronged the City Sports Stadium did not carry themselves in a peaceful manner. Reports are rife that there was need for organized crowd control and the police could have delivered better security. Well, people always talk about sparing the rod and spoiling the child. But honestly, who in this day and age would want to raise a traumatized child severely beaten and wounded by the supposed public protectors? The police could have used better crowd control mechanisms. They knew the crowd they were dealing with. The young revelers were not armed save for the beer bottles and cans. How then was it possible that there was a stampede, teargas was reportedly fired until the stadium looked like a gas chamber? The ZRP Public Relations office has a lot of questions to answer.

More importantly, the whole saga points to a police force which remains brutal and contemptuous in its handling of any Zimbabwean trying to freely associate be it at political meetings, partying or any other gathering. Zimbabweans’ freedom of association lies largely in the hands of the ZRP and one wonders when people will be able to freely enjoy themselves without big brother, ZRP not choosing to be high handed whenever they deem it necessary.

Secondly, the incident points to a long standing culture of violence and torture in the ZRP. There can no justification to the scores of injuries, fractures and even the 5 deaths that were reported from that incident. The ZRP has previously been fingered in crowd control debacles which have resulted in fatal stampedes before. Cases in mind are the National Sports Stadium in July 2000 where 15 people died and the police were found liable. In September 201O, Akon, the popular US hip hop singer performed in Harare and at one point had to stop his show to condemn the police who were beating his fans for trying to jump onto the stage. Well, Akon, those popos are still at it and it seems like it’s getting worse. Several other cases against political parties are widely documented.

The ZRP could have engaged the matter differently. Young people are generally a restive lot and chaotic behavior is to be expected. The police know this. Public campaigns calling for order and peaceful behavior prior to the show would have been welcome on public radio and TV. They could have had worked with the artistes and produced skits condemning violent and drugged behavior at the summer party. I’m not too sure as well that the use of teargas at the venue was the best way to disperse the crowds.

Calls have been made before for the police to mend their ways and engage the public peacefully. More importantly, this incident reignites calls for the police and other security personnel to have mandatory human rights training. The continued use of force and violence by the police on Zimbabwe’s young people and any Zimbabwean for that matter is unacceptable and criminal. This incident provides these young people with vivid pictures of what their parents, brothers, sisters and older generations have had to live with day in day out since Independence in 1980 when it comes to the police and public relations.

This issue observed from the lens of an older generation easily offended by the popopo Zim Dancehall music genre will look trivial. However, what is more important at this juncture is for the police, youth leaders and Zimbabweans at large to have a relook at police brutality and mishandling of public gatherings. While young people need to be constantly engaged on the use of drugs which are largely to blame for some of the unruly behavior exhibited at last Saturday’s show, the ZRP also needs to seriously reflect on the way it deals with the public and how it handles public gatherings. Institutions such as the National Arts Council, the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Music Producers, youth organizations and other relevant stakeholders need to condemn the unfortunate incident that happened on Saturday, 8 November and find ways of addressing the nation, those who reportedly died and those who were injured.

May the souls of those young peoples’ lives which were unfairly robbed rest in eternal peace! Popopopo!

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