While President Robert Mugabe was condemning violence, many of us were celebrating it. At a police pass-out parade at Morris Training Depot in Harare, he said Zimbabwe was a peace-loving nation. “We may even differ in opinion, but that should never make us resort to the use of violence to settle our differences. I, therefore, warn all those who perpetrate violence, incite or engage in illegal protests that they should be prepared to face the full wrath of the law,” President Mugabe said.
While the President was exhorting the nation to be peaceful, the notorious daily tabloid H-Metro was raking in thousands of dollars in sales on the back of a front page story celebrating the killing of a burglar by trigger-happy guards in Avonlea. For good measure, the paper went on to describe the killing as the handiwork of “alert security” in its editorial comment.
The specifics of the case are particularly worrying. The burglar was unarmed and did not manage to actually get inside the home he wanted to rob. On realising he had been discovered he tried to flee. The guards immediately opened fire and shot him dead.
There is no moral or legal justification for shooting a man who is unarmed and presents no immediate threat to property or life. This man was trying to run away. The shooting aroused no particular protest from human rights groups.
Violence, whether political or not, should be condemned.
It cannot be the case that we celebrate the disproportionate use of lethal force simply because such injustice is being meted out against an alleged criminal.
The police have a responsibility to investigate the circumstances around the killing with a view to bringing charges of culpable homicide against the guards involved.
The next day police officers and a journalist from the ZBC were violently attacked by rowdy members of an apostolic sect. The specific circumstances have been widely published.
What is troubling is the reaction to the violence.
SW Radio journalist Lance Guma celebrated the violence on his Twitter page saying “thank you Newsday and Shepherd Tozvireva for making our day.
These pictures of Masowe members beating up riot police are historic”, before going on to ask where he could purchase his own apostolic staff. What is our attitude to violence? Is it a vice in itself or acceptable when it is used against those we happen to disagree with?
The unnecessary shooting of an unarmed burglar and the celebration of violence against the police suggests we need to do more to educate against violence.
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