I Killed Men Today
by Lindani Chirambadare
I was there with thousand others in Copacabanna as we stood aside and did nothing, craning our necks to see the soldiers beat up the faceless nameless unwashed hwindis whose problems and running battles with the soldiers and police we did not need to remember because for one they deserved it, two it was none of our business, three I have enough problems of my own…and any number of reasons to fill in the blank spaces. We knew in our hearts that it was wrong and that it should not happen, least of all with the frequency and magnitude with which it has been happening. I watched as the soldiers dragged the poor unarmed young and old hwindis out of the kombis, whip them up, kick them and pound their heads with sadistic glee. I was there when they were stripped of their dignity and reduced to begging battered pulps. I was there. And I did nothing but kill each one of the soldiers in my mind.
What gives a soldier the right to beat up a civilian, or two, or three, or ten or twenty? They bellowed that the hwindis refused to carry them to work, for free, in the morning. They reiterated their entitlement to such benefit because they defend this country and are by consequence entitled to treatment as “staff” munyika yababa Chatunga (in Mugabe’s country). What or who has brainwashed these man and women of the uniform into a warped sense of importance? Does it have anything to do with restlessness or unsatisfactory pay days which frustrates them into beating up ordinary civillians who have - in this particular case, been systematically excluded from recourse? Such tyranny. There surely can be no amount of justification for the protector turning into the tormentor.
What makes a citizen give up his power? The power accruing to her or him through the social contract?
Our minds have been colonised by fear.
Our will by complacency.
We stood aside today because we were afraid, it did not concern us, we were not angry enough and besides, who were we to do anything when the Police themselves were turning a blind eye? What happens tomorrow then when the soldiers beat up my brother, your father, my mother our mother and our grandmother, because they can and we have allowed them to? What happens when your child, niece or nephew is initiated into that culture of hooliganism because it is the one that obtains in the community and country in which they live in? Will the same reasons for complacency obtain? Will the discourse take up new and different meaning when the protagonists are closer to our bossoms?
We must never forget that Hwindis are honest (most times anyway) men and women, you and I trying to make a living and to fend for their families by trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents split many ways among the Police, Council, Zimra , Zinara, fuel, ZBC, rentals, fees, livelihood……. and that when we stand aside we are waiting in line.
Our kids and grandchildren and generations after them will one day ask us why we stood aside and let our country degenerate to levels of no return like this and we will have no answer but to face the truth, the fact of our cowardice.
The bells may today toll for our neighbour but tomorrow, they will toll for us.