My friends at Kubatana posted an interesting set of documents today, the police announcements prohibiting demonstrations and rallies in several neighborhoods of Harare. The documents are works of bureacratic genius, reaching amazing lengths in their attempts to justify constraining the right of Zimbabwean citizens to protest the atrocious conditions they’re living in.
My personal favorite is the order banning demonstrations in the Chitungwiza district, a residential area about 15km south of the capital. Yes, the reasons given for prohibiting demonstrations in this community include the fact that windows were broken in the houses of two members of the opposition party. That, plus the fact that demonstrations are happening in other parts of Harare give the superintendant of police sufficient reason to ban rallies and demonstrations for a month.
Of course, the order has nothing to do with the fact that the people in Chitungwiza overwhelmingly support the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Or that people in the community are finding it impossible to work in Harare because they can’t afford the commute into the city center, leading them to lose their jobs (which barely pay enough to buy bread.)
Image from Kubatana.net
Windowpanes were also broken in Harare Central when organizations including Women of Zimbabwe Arise went on “a rampage”. My friends at Kubatana helpfully post some terrifying photos of the rampaging Zimbabwean housewives and mothers. Be careful – you can put someone’s eyes out with those roses they’re carrying (The march was supposed to be on Valentine’s Day, but was moved a day earlier in the hopes that it would experience less police repression.)
What amazes me about Zimbabwe is the care the government takes to make sure that deeply illegal actions comply with the letter of the law. In some ways, it’s a refreshing change from abusive leaders who simply do what they want, like Guinea’s President Conte, who simply went to the local jail and released two friends who’d been imprisoned for fraud. But the result is a set of remarkable documents designed to keep an increasingly angry population from taking to the streets while remaining within the letter of the law, drafted with a touch that would have made George Orwell proud.