London was burning – “So what”?

Posted: August 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

Faced boiled with oil in Harare

Democracy has bad days. So were the past few days in the United Kingdom where we witnessed riots with citizens burning and looting shops and houses. This was a bad day for UK democracy as we witnessed in the first few days, police running circles with rioters who seemed to be in the upper hand. As of today, the riots are over and people are starting to get on with their lives, with those that lost property seeking to rebuild where they can and those that caused the riot finding their new lives – one with a crime record. As the mayor of London has said “London will live”. This, people seem to accept with the hopes that the city will host next year’s Olympics – and yes, thank God, the riots happened now rather than later, giving lessons to all stakeholders involved.

London is not Harare, Tripoli or Tehran

Seeing some comments, mostly on facebook, some people have taken a new sport of making the London riots a serious human rights issue, even calling, bizarrely, for the UK to be discussed at the UN. First, yes there are social concerns that people are raising as to why the riots happened. But to label them a human rights issue is way out of line. To begin with, who were the looters? Teenagers mostly as far as one can judge.  Did they make any demands that deserved attention? I think no, we did not hear such calls. Secondly, there was the issue of targeted looting where cash and other expensive items (clothing, flat-screen televisions, etc) – which seemed to be the main focus of looters’ attentions – making it look like some criminal undertaking.  And finally, the response from authorities gave confidence to all who live in the UK.  As we saw on television, police did not use extreme force when the riots broke out, which has always been the case in some countries. Interestingly enough, the media opened up to everyone to air their criticism of the police and government for being too slow and too soft in responding to the disorder – something we never hear in Harare or Tehran. Above all, there will be an Independent Inquiry which has been set to allow proper analysis of the whole fiasco in order to avoid cases

A rioter going to court in London

of people being punished for unnecessary things.  In Zimbabwe for example, we are still waiting for a Gukurahundi Commission from government 28 years later. We are still waiting to see the results of the commissions, if ever they were set up into Operation Murambatsvina and the 2008 Election Campaign Violence which left over 300 people dead. So, before we get on our high horses, we must learn to separate issues and look closer to home rather than trying to uncover things that don’t exist or making strange comparisons.

Hard Luck Marange villagers, “it’s just a moment of madness”

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe government and its supporters have criticised the BBC Panorama documentary which aired human rights abuses happening at the diamond fields of Marange. They have dismissed it as mere propaganda seeking to destroy the Zimbabwe government. If I were a person from Marange, I would learn from the people of Matabeleland and Midlands whose only response to their massacres was, “It was just a moment of madness”. Well, we seem to have many of those in Zimbabwe these days given the recent abduction and brutal killing of MDC member, Maxwell Ncube in Zhombe. Yaya Kasim was burnt with hot oil and his face is damaged and is now living in immense pain. What can we do, they will just say “it was just a moment of madness”. At the end of the day, I think we should occupy ourselves more about finding solutions about problems in our country than seeking to solve problems in countries where they already have mechanisms to do so.  As Jonathan Moyo points out, it might be time to extinguish the corruption and resistance to change in the Zanu PF party, which is holding us at ransom. Have a nice weekend and don’t go looting!

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