Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Forced to eat their own placards

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With the advent of desktop publishing and information mediums like email pretty much any citizen can, and has become a publisher. But with the freedom to publish comes the need to engage both responsibility and accountability. Within civil society Information Officers are playing at being journalists, sometimes with good results and sometimes with disastrous ones.

I took umbrage with Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition on Tuesday in regard to how they reported on the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) Valentine’s March in Harare. Caught up in the hysteria of “breaking news” (something we information activists need to break out of) Crisis issued an Information Alert which stated:

More than 1000 WOZA activists were brutally assaulted by riot police and had police dogs unleashed on them as they were marching in Harare. The march was for love where Zimbabweans were called upon to dwell in peace and harmony.

As I pointed out to Crisis, police dogs were not unleashed on the demonstrators and during the march there were no brutal assaults. And indeed if over 1000 WOZA activists had been assaulted, this particular protest march would go down in the annals of Zimbabwe’s history as being the most savage of all the Zimbabwe Republic Police force’s acts of violence.

Just as we pro-democracy activists demand accountability in publishing from the state-controlled press so we must demand the same accountability of ourselves.

Meanwhile WOZA has reported on police brutality experienced by WOZA members in Bulawayo. Whilst WOZA acknowledges that this disgusting behaviour is perpetrated by some members of the police force they emphasise that others engage professionalism in their work. Here’s an excerpt from their statement:

The petty nastiness of the Zimbabwe Republic Police was again evident today. Having informed those on support yesterday that the breakfast feeding time had been changed to 5am, volunteers were mobilised to provide food at 5am but were kept waiting until 7am, the normal feeding time. A woman at Queens Park was consistently denied her ARV medication. Reports have also come in that several members were forced to eat the paper placards that they had been carrying during the demonstration – some of these read, ‘love can bring a brighter day’ and ‘From WOZA with love’. Despite the inability of some officers to choose love over hate, WOZA would like to salute those officers who did treat our members with respect and professionalism and who recognized that WOZA is fighting for a better future for ALL Zimbabweans.

Recently Kubatana helped WOZA get on the net. Please check out their web site

One comment to “Forced to eat their own placards”

  1. Comment by Masimba Biriwasha:

    I think this is indeed a fair point. We should not sacrifice truth and honesty on the altar of struggle for democracy. A struggle based on untruths stinks just as the evil we are trying to fight. The struggle for change demands that we maintain a level of oral integrity.