The Zimbabwe tragedy the world is ignoring


Former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi once asked: “What use is democracy to a man with no shoes?”

According to Andrew Morton in his book Moi- the making of an African statesman, these sentiments were interpreted as those of a tyrant riding roughshod over the democratic process but in reality they reflected his awareness of the realities of life in Kenya, balancing economic rights against the more fashionable human and civic rights.

That human and civic rights are more fashionable, especially for the media, was amply demonstrated during the recent shutdown in Zimbabwe when the media concentrated on the blackout of the internet and social media ignoring the human tragedy that had been caused by the massive looting by the protesters.

Perhaps this was not an issue because looting in Harare, where most of the scribes reside,  was not as bad as it was in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city, where almost every shop in the Western suburbs, where the majority of the people stay, was looted and in some cases razed to the ground.

Nothing was spared. People looted groceries, furniture, beef and even drugs at private surgeries and pharmacies.

When the protests ended on Wednesday, residents found there was nowhere to buy mealie meal or beef and in some cases even a box of matches.

Some shops in town were open but with transport costing a minimum of $3 one way it was too expensive for most people to travel to town to buy the basics.

One retired police officer said he was shocked by the level of looting he witnessed because he had never seen anything like that during his entire career.

The level of destruction was so bad that it will take months if not years for things to return to normal but some of the businesses will not re-open because the owners were left with nothing except perhaps the debts they owe to their suppliers.

According to people on the ground, the looting was organised. There was a team that just came and broke the locks and let people take whatever they wanted.

Police, in some cases, just turned a blind eye to the looting, a move some said showed the level of disgruntlement with the present situation because government workers are affected by the rising transport costs as well.

At least one business owner is reported to have fought back and is reported to have fired at innocent civilians who included an off-shut soldier whose life is said to be critical.

At the moment, there are accusations and counter-accusations of who did what but the reality is that the poor, already struggling to make ends meet, have been hit hardest.

This is born by the hard fact that while people are complaining about the high transport costs, fuel queues are just as long as they were before the price hike that is supposed to have triggered the protests though more service stations are now selling the previous liquid.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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