Zimbabwe Police Shoot Workers For Asking For Their Salaries

Police in Zimbabwe, like the riot squad seen above, have shot into a crowd of protesting workers at Shabani Mine. The incident, which the MDC minister in charge of Home Affairs says shows that the "Police are refusing to reform", highlights the uselessness of the MDC in the Inclusive Government and confirms my analysis last year that gaining sole control of the Ministry of Home Affairs or not would make no difference for the MDC because they had botched the negotiations in the first place and signed a GPA that was slanted heavily in favour of Mugabe and ZANU PF, despite winning elections.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 04 October 2009

Shabani Mine workers had not been paid since February this year. So they went on strike. They convened a meeting on 25 September, a few a days ago, where they were assured their managers would address them.

They came, they sat, they waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, one of them, Alois Zhou, went over to the policemen and Shabani Mine guards to ask when the managers would come to address them.

For doing this, he was thoroughly beaten up by the police with the butts of their rifles. They then shot him in the hand. They shot him again, this time in the leg.

As he lay writhing in pain, the police then threw tear-gas into the crowd of seated workers, who got up and fled.

The police fired into the fleeing crowd, hitting a further two workers in their legs as they fled.

Home Affairs, the ministry under which these policemen fall, is run jointly by ministers from ZANU PF and MDC Tsvangirai.

Which means one of two things: the MDC is now condoning the gunning down and teargassing of its core constituency, workers, if they ever dare be so brazen as to ask for payment for the work they do.

Or the MDC really has no power to stop this and is simply window-dressing at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Most would say it is the second.

In which case, it bears repeating what I said during the period between September 2008 and January 2009, as the MDC refused to consummate the Global Political Agreement and form the Inclusive Government, insisting that they needed to be given control of the Ministry of Home Affairs to go into government.

I pointed out on this blog, and repeatedly, that control, partial or full, of the Home Affairs ministry meant nothing. I recalled the period in the 1980s when Joshua Nkomo was Minister of Home Affairs and yet still got very senior members of his party, including Dumiso Dabengwa, arrested behind his back.

My point was that because the MDC had fundamentally miscalculated and mishandled the power negotiations themselves, nothing they could do now would tip the scales in their favour. Even if they got the Ministry of Home Affairs itself, I pointed out, they would still be as powerless as they were in opposition.

This was because they had blundered long before this, allowing Mugabe to not only keep his job and title, but also his full constitutional powers. The single event of the appointment of a Minister of Home Affairs was less important than the process they had botched.

It was not worth destroying the GPA over, I said, because getting the ministry would make no difference to the powerlessness into which they had negotiated themselves.

Nkomo was the Minister in charge of the police, who had to sign every arrest warrant issued in Zimbabwe and especially one for a senior figure in society.

Yet he only got to know of the arrests after they had occurred and was told to mind his own business when he asked Mugabe about them.

Regular readers will recall that MDC supporters hurled insults because of this, saying this would never happen because this was 2009 and not 1980, that the MDC had learnt from the mistakes of ZAPU and would act accordingly.

It was also suggested that the situations were different because, unlike Nkomo, the MDC was a majority party and hence had much more leverage over Mugabe than Nkomo could ever dream of.

Well, now we know who was right and who was wrong.

Minister Mutsekwa then says today he is "the police are refusing to reform" and that "we have told them many times not to shoot at unarmed civilians."

Perhaps it is delusions of grandeur, but the Minister needs to understand that it is not he who is giving the orders around here now. In government, he and his fellow ministers are simply making up the numbers and are too comfortable to do what honour demands, which is walk away from this insult once and for all.

The only the minister with any real power in this government now is Tendai Biti, whose portfolio as Minister of Finance has given him more clout than even the Prime Minister enjoys.

As it happens, the strike by the workers at Shabani Mine has exposed another delusion within the MDC support base. We have been told before that, with the MDC in government, ZANU PF will not be able to use its patronage system to maintain grip on power, that the MDC will be watching etc etc.

Yet, the Shabani Mine workers say that, upon striking, the workers seen as sympathetic to the MDC were instantly fired, while those perceived to be loyal to ZANU PF got a pat on the back and were told to report for duty the next day.

The appointment of ZANU PF loyalists and apologists to Boards of Directors and Commissions last week also exposes the fact that the ZANU PF patronage system in still intact.

The MDC can make as much as they like, but the truth of the matter is that they are being abused now by ZANU PF and all they can do is say they will stay on no matter what.

Having gambled away all their advantages since March 2008, they now stand naked and shamed before the people of Zimbabwe, taunted, humiliated by ZANU PF at every turn.


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