Saturday, July 30, 2005

Zim student protest


Sokwanele Report: 29 July 2005

It is interesting to note how, despite the massively intimidating effect of all the police state apparatus Mugabe has put in place, the voice of protest is still heard. The dictator has not succeeded - and surely never will - in silencing all dissent to his autocratic rule. For the most part the challenge to the ZANU PF monopoly of power is expressed in muted fashion, with angry mutterings and quiet acts of defiance. Yet now and again a bolder act of defiance takes place and the people of Zimbabwe catch a glimpse of the boiling cauldron beneath the battened-down lid. The pity is that all too often these courageous acts of protest pass unnoticed and unrecorded. The State media is certainly not going to draw attention to them and often the severely circumscribed independent press and media fail to pick up on the stories. As a result the impression remains that this murderous regime has achieved total dominance of all the political space, driving even the opposition into a sullen subservience.

...Earlier in the month and almost unnoticed by the media, was a protest at Bulawayo Polytechnic. Yet over 2,000 students took part in this peaceful demonstration which was sparked by student discontent caused by repeated delays by the College authorities in paying out student loans.

...a group of about 15 anti-riot police appeared suddenly, dressed in full combat gear including helmets, and wielding batons and tear gas canisters. The moment the students caught sight of them they began to disperse. The less alert among the student body however and those who did not manage to slip away in time, were soon pinned down by the riot police who moved into action mode immediately, lashing out with their batons at any unfortunate students in their path. Yet again these ruthless agents of State repression asked no questions and showed no restraint. Sensing a vulnerable crowd of defenceless youth who were not going to stand their ground anyway, they resorted to their customary "crowd control" tactics; never mind this crowd was already perfectly controlled and a threat to no one.

....Traditionally, the world around, student activists have been at the forefront of those protesting human rights abuses and demanding democratic change. Zimbabwe's dictator has not been slow to appreciate this potential threat to his continued hold on power, and he has used great cunning as well as brutal force to undermine the natural leadership emerging from Zimbabwe's tertiary institutions of learning. To some extent he has succeeded in subduing the student body nationally and diverting their attention to personal issues of survival. Nonetheless it is most heartening to observe that the flame of protest still burns strongly in the hearts of a significant number of the students of today who will undoubtedly be numbered among the leaders of the new Zimbabwe.

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