Accompany me if you will to a meeting convened by District Administrator (DA) Chimedza of the Zaka District, in the lowveld region, south-east of Masvingo. The meeting took place on 22nd October and to it were summoned the local Chiefs from Jerera, Manjirenji and Zaka, together with the new settlers from the area. A few members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) were also present.
Now listen with me to the instructions given to the settlers by DA Chimedza, the local ZANU PF bigwig, who swaggers a little under the weight of his own sense of self-importance. It is no little honour of course to represent the party of the supreme dictator of Zimbabwe, or to feel the thrill of that sense of power over people that goes with the job. What the DA says quite simply is the law so far as the assembled group is concerned. That Chimedza has no inkling of either the constitution of Zimbabwe or the laws passed by the legislature; that he has never been elected to any office in the land and owes his senior position to Mugabe patronage alone, scarcely matters. The fact is that this man is the face of the government and the law within his Zaka fiefdom.
Once the opening formalities are out of the way DA Chimedza stands to deliver a speech. The relaxed style belies the reality which is that the DA is handing out orders to ZANU PF cadres who are expected to obey, on pain of losing whatever employment, status or material rewards the party has graciously bestowed on each.
To the settlers there is a clear instruction that they are to repair their huts, plough their lands and plant seed ahead of the rains expected to begin within the next few weeks. Otherwise they will be booted off the land just as their unfortunate predecessors in title were. There is nothing to discuss here, is there? Never mind that the settlers have no seed to plant and precious little draught power to prepare the fields. Presumably it has at last dawned upon the DA's superiors that there will be no manna from heaven this year, so any food required to feed the nation must be grown by the new settlers. Let them do it - or else!
Then an instruction about the schools and clinics which someone (presumably high in the corridors of ZANU PF power) must have noticed, have disappeared along with commercial farmers, agriculturalists, teachers and other professionals who used to manage them until they were chased off the land. The word here is that any vacant houses found may be converted to use as a school or clinic. DA Chimedza does not mention that there are no nurses or medicines left, nor any teachers or school equipment. A mere detail which no one else dares to mention either.
A question is raised from the respectful audience. Translated out of ZANU PF double-speak the question is simply this - are the houses of two local families (Sebenani and Dawlish) fair game for the settlers? Certainly not, replies Chimedza hurriedly. For reasons he cannot disclose to his audience these two homes still enjoy official protection from the party. The properties are therefore out of bounds to any settlers and woe betide any who interfere with the white occupants. For the humble, subservient settlers "theirs is not to reason why".
Another question is raised: what are the new farmers to do about the wild animals which are entering their fields and ruining their crops. Significantly the questioner fails to mention to which fields he is referring. (Our informant does a quick re-take to see if he can recall seeing a single field now occupied by the new settlers with a standing crop upon it … he cannot). And no mention is made either of the fact that many of the new farmers are occupying land formerly falling within major conservancies in the area, in which the objective was to sustain a viable wildlife population. (Needless to say the once thriving wildlife has since been decimated by the chaotic farm and conservancy invasions).
DA Chimedza has a simple solution to the farmer's problem. He should kill any game unfortunate enough to stray onto his field.
At this point in the proceedings some of the ZRP members hitherto listening quietly, display a certain unease. One is brave enough to put his thoughts into words. (No doubt he soon enough wished he had not). The policeman pointed out to the gathered assembly that if any poaching of wild life took place the culprits would be arrested and charged. (After all that used to be the law, pre ZANU PF "make-it-up-as-you-go-along" days).
Not so, declared Chimedza emphatically. And to put the point beyond any doubt he warned that if any police officer was foolish enough to arrest a settler for killing game he, the police officer, could be beaten up by the settlers. (Fair game, you could say). The ZRP members present looked on incredulously while the man bold enough to make the point about what the law used to be studied the back of his hands for a very long time.
A dramatic pause to underline his authority, and then Chiemdza went on. An afterthought perhaps or a sop to the dented egos of the ZRP contingent: "If an elephant is killed the carcass must not be touched. You must call the police and they will first remove certain parts (our emphasis) of the elephant before the people can enjoy the meat."
Herewith but a glimpse of the terrifying reality of ZANU PF power at village level as it is exercised today: The law, whatever the local ZANU PF chef says it is; the police and traditional leaders, now totally subservient to their new political masters; instant mob justice, the order of the day; wildlife conservation, a dead letter …
Yes, supreme dictator, this is the legacy you are leaving to the people of this land. Robert Mugabe, this is your Zimbabwe !