When a colour becomes criminal

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Nelson Chamisa

AT the weekend, a video emerged of a police officer in uniform beating up a man for wearing a yellow T-shirt.

The unnamed person, was being held on the ground by a couple when the policeman, in full riot gear, rushed up and whacked him on the head and ran off.

Last week on Thursday police in Harare arrested five opposition activists and a pedestrian, allegedly for public nuisance. The distinctive feature about their apparel was the yellow T-shirt.

The colour yellow has become the most dangerous piece of apparel in Zimbabwe since opposition leader Nelson Chamisa unveiled his Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party with yellow as its colour, moving on from the red of its former name, the MDC Alliance.

Police confirmed the arrest, saying the opposition members were arrested for blocking a pavement and disturbing flow of human traffic in central Harare.

“They were arrested for blocking a pavement as they were chanting party slogans, so the police intervened and others ran away while some were arrested. So, the arrest has truly nothing to do with their regalia,” offered police spokesperson, Paul Nyathi by way of explanation.

The six were released after paying a fine of $2 000 each for disorderly conduct. One of the activists, Emmanuel Zellers Gumbo wrote on Twitter at the weekend: “Our only crime was putting on yellow T-shirts, which (the police) alleged was disorderly conduct and later changed to obstruction. (For) which they saw fit to subject us to brutal torture and degrading human conditions during our detention. Nevertheless, the struggle continues unabated.”

Yesterday’s Zanu PF campaign meeting in Chitungwiza offered some clues, with the party’s politburo members saying Chamisa and his ilk must be banned from using the colour yellow.

Zanu PF acting youth league secretary Tendai Chirau sought to explain the ruling party’s attachment to yellow: “When the liberation struggle was fought it was Zanu PF that mobilised the masses, and one of the key fundamentals was the fight for mineral resources, the fight for independence, and that is why Zanu PF chose yellow as (one of) its colours.  The reason was because it was symbolising the national resources in terms of mineral wealth.”

The party’s provincial chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa weighed: “They want to shine with the yellow colour. Yellow has always been the Zanu PF colour.  It is our special colour as Zanu PF because we brought independence. Yellow represents the wealth of the country. The wealth of this country was brought in the country from whites by Zanu PF and not by CCC.”

How has a party’s colour, not policies or ideology become the main political focus?

Even by Zimbabwe’s wacky and zany standards, this is ridiculous.