BRITISH actress Melanie Thandiwe Newton Parker has found her voice. For more than 30 years, she has been known as Thandie Newton, an anglicised version of her name. The missing “w” was dropped carelessly from her first acting credit, she said. So early this month she told the world: “I’m taking back what’s mine.”
She wanted the world to know of her Zimbabwean heritage. Her actions inspired many actors and sportspersons to do likewise. This includes another British actress with a Zimbabwean heritage, Tanya Fear who also sought to reclaim her full name Tanyaradzwa.
Even more poignant, Newton has picked up the cause of Joanah Mamombe, an MDC Alliance MP who is in jail along with party national youth deputy organising secretary Netsai Marova and youth campaigner Cecilia Chimbiri. Their ordeal has been one that not only shows the Zimbabwean government at its most brutal and utter disregard for human rights but also the absurdity of a perverted justice system that has seen the courts put politics ahead of legal considerations. The three were arrested on their way to a peaceful protest in May last year and were later abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted by unknown assailants. The State, of course, denies responsibility for their ordeal despite the fact that when they went missing, they were in police custody.
The State, instead, accused the three of tarnishing its “good” reputation. The three have been in prison for months, being denied bail by the courts for one excuse or the other.
This is a government that recently forcibly removed Mamombe from a private hospital in the dead of the night while she was receiving treatment and returned her to Chikurubi Maximum Prison. She needs to suffer for challenging the hegemony of the regime, appears to be the message. The message is loud and clear to all opposition members and activists who fall in the sticky nets of the State. Newton posted on her Twitter handle a picture of herself holding a placard written, #MercyForMamombe along with the caption: “Please show your support for the victims of human rights atrocities in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans need dialogue not violence. If you feel the same please shape up and selfie #MercyForMamombe #ZimbabweanLivesMatter.”
The history of the case involving Mamombe and her fellow opposition activists suggests that they deserve justice, not mercy. They deserve to go through a just criminal process, not the current slow burner torture process in which the State seems to take pride in showcasing its brutality. If, indeed, Mamombe and her co-defendants committed a crime, that should be proved beyond reasonable doubt in a fair trial before a court of law timeously because justice delayed is justice denied.