It is only a matter of time before the forces of darkness and evil in Zimbabwe are rooted out and defeated. When that happens, due credit will have to be given to the role played by our independent media, especially the publications of Alpha Media Holdings (AMH).
When tomorrow our increasingly determined efforts succeed in realising the democratic desires of our people, we must not reserve our accolades just for the well known political parties and organisations across the country that are the public expression of our struggle.
We must equally recognise and acknowledge the vital contribution of our newspapers and the courageous efforts of their publishers.
Just as the man on the street has been constantly and shamefully shut down, so have they.
When Mugabe’s tried and tested methods of oppression were systematically unleashed on us, they too found themselves on the receiving end. Some of our people died. So did some of our newspapers.
When many among us considered it too risky to continue the fight because the stakes were getting too high, our true newspapers audaciously and unwaveringly continued to tell it like it is.
By doing so they sustained hope.
Someone somewhere was reading. Not even live bullets, posted or fired, could scare them. The team at AMH faced and overcame enormous and exceptional difficulties.
Together with every decent Zimbabwean they are set to fight the battle right to the very end.
It bears repetition that dictatorships thrive on instilling fear not just in the physicality of man, but also in what he thinks and writes. It would often appear that they are not as scared of people as they are of newspapers.
It was Napoleon Bonaparte who once said: ‘I fear the newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets’.
Indeed, as Benjamin Franklin once aptly observed, a country without a government but with newspapers is better placed than one with a government but without newspapers.
In 2003 the Daily News was shut down on the lame excuse that it had been operating without a licence.
This deliberate move by President Mugabe revealed him as a Stalinist prepared to take any measures needed to retain his grip on power, just as much as his massacre of over 20 000 Zimbabweans in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to distract attention from the real issues and the ever growing unpopularity of his government, he took up populist causes such as land reform and indigenisation, all of them self-serving, all of them motivated by the radical agenda of a supposed leader who has overstayed his welcome by decades.
By imposing the draconian limitations of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) in 2002, Mugabe ensured that, even if those newspapers outside the watch of his bootlicking and unthinking Ministry of Propaganda — otherwise known, euphemistically, as the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity— dared to publish anything, whatever ended up in their pages would not be published without considerable constraints.
The lines were drawn and drawn ironically in law.
Yet freedom of expression is so fundamental that the United Nations General Assembly found it fitting in its very first session in 1946 to adopt resolution 59(1) which provides: “Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and …the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.”
It stands to reason that when freedom of speech is violated other human rights are necessarily violated, in particular the right to freely associate and assemble — rights that are at the very heart of a civilised society.
Under Mugabe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, journalists can be jailed for up to 20 years for publishing or communicating to any other person ‘false’ information deemed prejudicial to the state.
There is a pervasive logic in Mugabe’s sickening strategy of legislating against free speech in order to suppress views critical to his tyranny, but to think that this will break down our resolve to stand up for democracy, to stand up for our rights and that which is right, is the illusion of a mad man.
Those in Zanu PF who believe themselves immovably entrenched in power ignore to their peril the desire for democracy burning in the hearts of our people.
They have not the least idea of the extent of the hunger for democracy in this country.
Our capacity to recuperate in moral and spiritual terms is truly formidable and constitutes one of our unique characteristics. It is what makes us Zimbabwean
For crying out loud, millions of our people are still living and breathing when in truth they should have died from starvation and oppression a lifetime ago! In these circumstances, we call on every progressive parliamentarian to move to repeal at the next sitting of parliament any so-called law that curtails the rights and freedoms of our people.
They should begin with AIPPA, the Public Order and Security Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and the Interception of Communications Act.
Meanwhile NewsDay, the newest newspaper in Zimbabwe, stands committed to seeing that Zimbabweans continue to follow the cult of truth and repudiate all falsification and propaganda.
This writer, exercising his right to free speech and association, will be a regular contributor.
It is through courage such as theirs that the entire world will see that Zimbabweans continue to do all that is humanly possible to mitigate and ultimately eradicate the torment that has thrown our country into turmoil and ruin.
l Psychology Maziwisa, LLB, Union for Sustainable Democracy