Culture Of Fear Grips Zimbabweans

”I avoid talking to strangers about anything because whatever you say can be turned political. All I want is to look after my old parents and my three year old child. I do not want to risk arrest for fear of being accused of having undermined the authority of President or face any criminal charges,” she told a Radio VOP reporter who had tried to strike a conversation with her in the commuter bus they were travelling in.

The driver, Mathias Nhambirwa who joined in the conversation, said he played the radio in his vehicle not just for entertainment when driving but to avoid conversation with passengers who may mis-understand him.

“Zimbabweans are no longer free to talk about anything,” he added.

Zimbabwe’s political violence has continued unabated despite the launch of the unity government in 2009.

During the 2008 presidential elections at least 200 supporters of Movement for Democratic Change supporters (MDC) were killed by suspected Zanu (PF) supporters while hundreds others were displaced from their homes.

Analysts say the country has virtually been turned into a police state with security agencies at ”every one’s back”.

”These guys are everywhere…one just has to avoid talking politics,” said Mashoko.

“Zanu (PF) that claims to have liberated the country from the york of colonisation is taking away the freedoms it fought for. It has the security forces on its side. MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai claims it cherishes the freedom of assembly, association, expression to democratic society but many of its supporters are being arrested” adds Nhambirwa.

Another kombi driver Donald Mukamba who plies the Karoi-Harare route said he now played gospel music in his vehicle for fear of playing songs that may be deemed political by passengers.

Former University of Vice Chancellor Professor Gordon Chavhunduka agrees that lack of trust has resulted in fear gripping majority of Zimbabweans.

”Everyone suspects anyone even at family level due to lack of trust. We must be tolerant to each other’s political views, “ said Chavhunduka a renowned traditionalist with Zimbabwe Traditional Healers Association.

He challenged both political and other leaders to encourage openness and dialogue.

”Political leaders must ensure that arguments are held openly. People must have the desire to speak their mind without fear and rebuild confidence socially, politically and economically” said Chavhunduka.