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Remembering September 11, 2001

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The horrific terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center in the United States on September 11, 2001, shocked and enraged the world’s conscience. Events of that day are permanently etched in the memory of mankind. I, too remember how the world stood still as the news slowly filtered to the four corners of the world. I remember that the Daily News, (it had not yet been banned then) even ran a second, special edition of the paper detailing the 9/11 attacks. I also, with tears and much pain, remember another cowardly and dastardly act that was committed on the same day several thousands of miles away, in Zimbabwe’s small town of Chivhu, at little known Mboe primary school. Mboe primary school is in Chikomba district, which, on September 22 and 23 was scheduled to hold a parliamentary by-election to fill-in the seat left vacant following the death of ZANU-PF MP, war veterans leader, Chenjerai ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi.  On Monday, September 10, Mboe Primary School Headmaster, Felix Mazava, 47, returned from holiday at the nearby town of Marondera to prepare for the new school term. A truly committed teacher serving his country, Mr Mazava had elected to work at the remote primary school in the middle of nowhere, a choice only the dedicated, qualified teachers make.

At the end of the day, as Mr Mazava was closing his makeshift ‘office,’ his son came running to tell him that there were 7 men in two white pick-up trucks who wanted to talk to him. It was getting dark. Fear was written all over his son’s face. Campaigners for the ZANU-PF candidate, a one Makokove, in the by-elections had on several occasions threatened to deal with Mr Mazava for trying ‘to be too clever’ by bringing MDC influence into the small-scale farming community which was wrongly presumed to support ZANU-PF. Mr Mazava thought that he could amicably talk things over with the ‘visitors.’ He went to the road to meet the visitors who promptly set upon him, fists and boots flying, before bundling him into one of the trucks and driving off at high speed.

His son, who had witnessed the abduction, immediately set off running in the opposite direction, never stopping for the entire 13km -distance to his grandfather, Mavheneka Matsongoni Mazava, to raise alarm and seek help. Meanwhile, Mr Mazava’s abductors drove with him for some 20km to Masasa communal area, where they stopped and started interrogating him about his alleged support for MDC. They bludgeoned him, stabbed him and kicked him for several hours.

Mr Mazava cried out and appealed to the thugs to spare his life. The thugs did not relent. He cried out to people sleeping in their huts to come out and rescue him. No-one dared come out. None came to his rescue. For supporting MDC he was kicked and stabbed repeatedly. During the vicious and frenzied attack his arms were broken in several places, his ribs too. Finally he died just as dawn was breaking on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.

His attackers, after killing him, searched and stole all valuables from him, including school fees he was due to pay for his daughter at a mission school in the district, put a ZANU-PF card on his forehead and dumped his body in Masasa. Later that Tuesday morning, his father, following tip offs from Masasa villagers, recovered his body and took it for burial.  He died and left behind a wife and four children, the eldest daughter, then barely 18, was in her first year at university. Suddenly and violently, their world had been thrown upside down, they were in turmoil.

Today, as I remember Felix Mazava, I wonder why died. For what cause did he have to meet such a cruel and violent death? What justice is there for him? What justice for his widow and young children? Soon after Mazava’s killing, police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said ‘police will investigate.’ Today, 8 years later, nothing has come of that investigation. Today, 8 years later, scores more have met a fate similar to that of Mazava, with no justice.

Where is Zimbabwe’s conscience? What kind of society is it that we live in, where people, young people even, to advance a political cause, can shed blood without batting an eyelid? Where people live in the shadow of fear? Where people are forever whispering and looking over their shoulders? Where there is no freedom whatsoever?

As I remember the needles and cruel death that Felix Mazava suffered, and which many more continue to suffer, I am convinced that a political party that either explicitly or implicitly condones use of violence as a means of propagating its message is not worth supporting. It is the sacred duty of every citizen not only to not support such a political party, but to actively campaign against the use of violence of any form as an aid to propagating ideas or to winning votes.

There is a political party in Zimbabwe whose legacy, the way I see it, has made human life cheap. Human life has lost its sanctity and its inviolability. For a mere vote, life is dispensed of. For daring to speak your mind, life is snuffed out of you. For daring to defend your property from marauding, jobless and homeless invaders, you risk paying the ultimate price. It is as if, in the eyes of the powers that be, Zimbabwean life has been hit by inflation and has lost almost all of its value. As if to confirm this strange scenario, life expectancy in Zimbabwe is officially the lowest in the world.

Some people seem to have forgotten that simple truth that, no matter how glorious it may appear to be, there is no political or other opinion worth shedding blood for. There is none. This is not the stone-age. Regardless of whatever claim to whatever legacy, there is no party or person worth killing for. I believe we should strive to create a society an idea alone, persuades people, where the strength of a political party directly corresponds to the strength of the ideas it puts to the people, and is not based on the size of its militia or its ability to control and unleash instruments of violence and repression. Life is precious; it must be regarded as such.

Unless more and more people openly and absolutely reject violence and embrace freedom, Zimbabwe will remain shackled to the past, unable to face the future with confidence and hope. One can declare that Zimbabwe will never, never, never, become a colony again, But already, the majority of Zimbabweans are colonised by a crippling fear of a minority that itself is colonised by a wounded and tortured psyche that believes in violence and coercion as legitimate pieces of the political chessboard. To echo the words of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), Zimbabwe, ‘choose love.’

In memory of Felix Mazava and thousands of other people robbed of their lives for the cause of freedom, I make this rallying cry to all democracy-loving, love-loving and peace-loving Zimbabweans to get up and make a stand. I believe that was Felix’s dream. May the soul of this gallant son of the soil and this unsung hero in the battle for democracy and freedom, rest in eternal peace. And may his death not be in vain.

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