THE violence seen during the fuel price increase protests and stand-off last week was not limited to the capital city Harare. The clashes between the police, army and protesters should not have happened in the first place had the authorities applied their minds to the real challenges facing the majority of poor Zimbabweans.
What is even nauseating is the response by the government to unleash armed soldiers on lawful demonstrations, which regrettably turned riotous, a situation that could easily have been diffused through dialogue.
We condemn the riotous behaviour by some protesters who turned looters in the face of a crisis affecting everyone except maybe the “fat cats” in the ruling Zanu PF party leadership.
Although the demonstrations were organised by the country’s largest labour body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the results clearly show that these were hijacked.
It was not lost that the protests were about the economic decay perpetrated by the ruling elite and their cohorts to further their interests, hence the violent crackdown on the protesters.
ZCTU is a labour body representing the working class, but they also identify with the majority poor, hence, the thousands of unemployed youths took advantage to vent their anger against government’s failure to provide jobs for them.
It was, therefore, not a surprise to realise that the ZCTU demonstrations were hijacked by the unemployed, as shown by the scale of looting for the stomach, the ruling party Zanu PF apparatchiks and the repressive State security apparatuses.
Instead of the government cracking down on the opposition activists and officials, the demonstrations should have served as a lesson for government to adequately provide basics for its struggling population.
It boggles the mind why a competent government should wait for demonstrations to then provide basics such as cheap public transport.
It is such knee-jerk decisions that will not get us anywhere.
We need carefully thought-out programmes and thought leadership to benefit the people.
For instance, will the decisions to bring on board conventional buses to ply urban routes not trigger fierce taxi wars in which lives could be lost as happened last week?
We believe that government must desist from violently cracking down on citizens, given that the demonstrations and the blockade of several roads itself was lawful, as the protest organisers pursued the legitimate aim of getting their message across.
It is now time government should be restrained and/or prohibited from perpetrating inhuman or degrading treatment against its citizens voicing their concerns.
It is also time the citizens reinforced the fight against ill-treatment and impunity, as the police and military must use reasonable force when lawfully exercising their powers, not what we have witnessed of late.
We call on the government to consider those with divergent views to freely express themselves.
Is it not true that the country is governed by consensus and not by the gun, as we have seen in this country?
It saddens us to see that many civilians have lost their precious lives at the hands of a regime barely one-year-old.
We don’t want to believe that the new rulers of the so-called “Second Republic or New Dispensation” are blood thirsty.
They should be warned that if they do not want to apply international protocols to ensure consensus is attained, they may be swept away by the wind.
What is good for the goose is good for the gander!