Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Beating up lawyers is spitting in faces of African leaders

THE attack by Zimbabwean police officers on lawyers is a slap – no actually a phlegm-filled spit on African leaders’ kid’s glove diplomacy on President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF regime.

The insult to the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) heads becomes even embarrassing because on the very day the lawyers were given a public flogging like delinquent neighborhood kids, the Pan African Parliament was sitting in South Africa to determine, among other issues, the way to handle the Zimbabwe crisis.

Even more embarrassing, AU chairman, President John Kufour of Ghana and SADC mediator, President Thabo Mbeki were also meeting with the former hoping to hear of progress in the Zimbabwe crisis talks.

To those who may not have known of the issue I am ranting about, here is a brief account:

On Tuesday a group of Zimbabwean lawyers went to the High Court to demonstrate in solidarity with two colleagues who had been arrested and detained on politically motivated charges.

When they gathered to demonstrate, they were told by the police to disperse and they were in the process of doing so when some police officers decided they were not walking fast enough.

"They physically forced us onto a truck drove about three or four kilometres and asked us to disembark. They asked us to lie on our stomachs and then they started assaulting us," said the Law Society of Zimbabwe's president, Beatrice Mtetwa.

According to other accounts, it appeared the police had found themselves something to amuse themselves with judging from how they ran around beating the lawyers like rowdy goats that strayed into a neighbour’s maize field.

How does President Mugabe hope to get sympathy for any of his arguments when his security people show such disrespect for human rights?

Exactly two months ago, it was the opposition and civic leaders who were attacked, resulting in a worldwide outcry that led to the emergency meeting of SADC leaders where Mbeki was chosen to lead talks between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The government has maintained that Morgan Tsvangirai and his colleagues deserved to be beaten up because they had defied police orders not to politicize a prayer meeting.

What law did the lawyers break when they complied when they were ordered to disperse? Okay, let’s suppose they did actually break the law in some way, what does the policing rules say in the Constitution? Is there anywhere it says load the offenders on a truck, drive them out of town and proceed to beat them up?

These beatings are senseless to say the least. They tell a tale of fear within the core of the regime. They tell a tale of a cornered bully whose reaction to legitimate challenges is to lash out at anyone within reach.

Last September it was union leaders, what law did they break to deserve a beating? As for members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and their children, they have actually become target practice for an inept police force.

There are people who believe in President Mugabe’s argument over land and other “injustices of the west”. How convincing, President Mugabe, can you be to them when you continue bashing in the heads of your own people?

African leaders, how justified is the beating up of lawyers, unionists and women and children?

My question to you all at AU and SADC is: When are you going to say enough is enough?

Beating up people does not bring back land; neither does it stop Britain and America or even China from colonizing Zimbabwe if they want to. You are actually making it easy for them.