Friday the 13th is considered to be a very unlucky day. This superstition, which has been cemented by popular fiction in the form of novels and movies, can be traced back to the year 1307 when an order of knights known as the Knights Templar were arrested, tortured and murdered in Europe.
Here in Zimbabwe, if one was to witness what occurred in Harare’s central business district on Friday last week, one might be inclined to believe that Friday the 13th is indeed a day on which an unimaginable horrific event is bound to take place.
On that fateful day, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) unleashed the floodgates of violence on me and countless other defenceless Zinasu student activists.
Instead of allowing us to peacefully march to Parliament Building, where we sought to drop our petition, as should happen in a truly democratic country, baton wielding riot police descended upon us as if we were a band of terrorists carrying grenade launchers and AK-47s when all we had in our hands were placards.
Yet, the concerns that led us to demonstrate are genuine. The living conditions at most tertiary institutions are deplorable and the fees are too high. Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, who declared us persona non grata a long time ago, has repeatedly refused to meet with us.
What then are we to do, but exercise our right to demonstrate which is guaranteed by the Constitution?
In the last couple of weeks, the ZRP has become increasingly violent against citizens. In the same week it crushed our peaceful demonstration with unbelievably callous heavy handedness, it also dished out the sour meal of police brutality to vendors and opposition party activists.
In our ill-fated march to Parliament, close to 20 student activists, the majority of us female, were seriously injured. Among the injured was a female student activist living with a disability which leads one to wonder: under all that protective gear anti-riot police officers wear, is there a normal human being with a heart?
This recent increase in police brutality is a cause for concern.
What the government should know is that, no one wants to demonstrate. We would all rather be going about our business but we can’t because the situation demands that we call certain things to the attention of a nonchalant government through street action.
Instead of trying to beat people into submission, the government should address whatever it is that is forcing people to go on the streets.
Police brutality is not the answer.
lJoanna Mamombe is Zinasu gender secretary. Views expressed in this article are personal.