I met one of Zupco’s lieutenants the other day. You probably know him, but I remember him vividly.
No matter where I go, memories of home always draw me back to where my life began; where I learnt to ride a bicycle; where I got my first kiss, and the second, and several more after.
Norton is my home but for a long time it has never felt like it.
I remember the first time it was taken from me. I was still a kid, with high expectations from life, with big hopes and dreams of what I would become after I finished my high school.
I was in my final year at a local school, St Eric High.
Desperate political times
I remember 2008 like it was yesterday.
To ZANU PF politicians it was seemingly their final year on the roost. Or was it just a public perception, after they had lost a majority in parliament during the March 2008 elections, while the presidency was heading to a runoff after Mugabe had been knocked out in the first round?
I remember 2008 like it was yesterday.
I was coming from school with a couple of friends, and as usual we would pass through the community centre (what is now Norton Vocational Training Centre) for a creative program, Simuka Africa.
I was a poetry enthusiast with a talent many wouldn’t deny, having been published in People Magazine, and Simuka Africa was my best shot into the industry- or so I thought.
We walked in, roosting with confidence, clinging on to our big bags, which secured our texts, as usual fooling around and laughing out loud.
To us, this day was no different to the previous one. People were starving, but our hopes were still high. All this vanished with one push at the black metal gate that secured the inner part of the community centre.
We were greeted by a raging fire in the eyes of the ‘comrades’ who were setting up base. I remember being shoved to the dust as we stepped inside, a slap on my cheek for trying to protest, and a kick on my ribs for ‘disrespecting’ musangano (the gathering).
Before I could fully understand and stomach what was taking place, a short masculine man in a printed Mugabe safari suit, the leader (later identified as Zupco) walked up to us with a raging temper, and started reading us out our offences.
The very first was kuseka musangano (laughing at the party/gathering), which I did not get since we had been joking around, but not on politics.
He then asked us why we were not at their camp pledging support to Robert Mugabe as the defender of solidarity and the sovereignty of Zimbabwe as were many familiar faces that sat in utter silence, doing nothing as we were being harassed.
After learning my name, he also found offence in my poem, which had been put up in the Simuka Africa office, a mere depiction of poverty and what Africa should be.
We were thoroughly searched; our books flipped from page to page, some torn as if our school uniforms wouldn’t authenticate our youth and innocence.
We were forced to sing liberation songs for what seemed like eternity. When we were finally let go, fear became our lives, and by all means we had to avoid what used to be our sanctuary from the world’s insanity.
Perpetrators walk free
Imagine my rage and anger when I met one of Zupco’s lieutenants, the one who kicked and slapped me, over the weekend.
Yes, I know he was never arrested- let alone questioned- for his various crimes on humanity, including torturing everyone they (ZANU PF) thought was an MDC activist or supporter. But for him to come to me and demand I buy him beer so that I will be ‘protected when time comes’ was a bit too much.
Apparently my crime was being a journalist for the ‘wrong side’ and my success (when he is a used up ZANU PF activist) was very offensive to him. “Ziva zvekudriver kamota kako nekunyorera NewsDay rako iriro, kunoku tisu tinotonga,” loosely translated to “even if drive your car and write for NewsDay we rule this side.”
This was after I flatly refused to buy him anything and told him to do his worst ‘when time comes’.
An unjust law…
There is a trend of politics superseding law in Zimbabwe. Speaking up against the president can get you arrested for ‘undermining’ his authority under the Criminal Codification Act.
All they need is a few of his supporters to affirm that you have insulted or spoken against him to guarantee your prosecution.
Home no longer feels safe, but it will always be home. Threats or what, this time I will fight back.
They may have victimized me when I was young and they may seemingly have the ‘law’ on their side but ‘when injustice becomes the law, resistance becomes a duty’; our duty.
Kundai is a 25 year old freelance journalist. He is the founder and Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Arts Journalists Association (ZAJA), a not for profit organization that seeks to improve arts news content through promotion of freedom of speech and objectivity in art and culture journalism. In line with this vision, he has also set up ‘Spiked‘, a news website together with some colleagues.