Reliving Rhodesian hell

BULAWAYO - People who lived in Southern Rhodesia, or even before then, must remember how we used to chide the colonial police as Baba, Satani Ari Pano here?

Their full title was the British South Africa Police (BSAP). In English, it meant, Father, Is The Devil Here?

The BSAP was led by whites, but there were many Africans under their wing — Africans who were trained to be as cruel to the Africans as they could be.

Fear was the key: all Africans — perhaps even those who were in the police force — were taught to fear the white police, with good reason.

The European police were particularly cruel to the Africans, who developed a fear of them which was unparalleled in normal human terms.

The fear was real enough. The white police, majoni, appeared to be licensed to be particularly cruel to African offenders. The fear they generated in the African was real enough.

The mention of Satan chilled the blood of the African victims long before they had been touched by the white policemen.

I was recently reminded of this incident during the violence apparently visited on the Zimbabweans demonstrating against what they saw as police brutality.

It is fortunate that there were no deaths during these particular clashes between Zimbabweans.

I was moved, emotionally, when Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo warned the police against applying this brutality on the demonstrators.

I was moved almost to tears.

In previous, such encounters, there was no such admonition against the police. For me, it was an occasion during which to praise the government for being so conscious of its humane attitude towards its own people.

Yet, there were still moments when I shivered with fear as the police moved against the demonstrators.

What restrained them could have been the genuine feeling of a Zimbabwean trying to remember how many of their relatives had died during the war of liberation.

We all ought to remember that this country was won by the bloodshed of our relatives.

We cannot watch, silently, as brother shoots at brother.

I am acutely aware that, all over Africa, brother has killed brother or sister during some of our internal skirmishes after independence. 

Who, among us today, can blot out the terrible orgy of deaths during Gukurahundi?

Who, among us today, can speak calmly of the 20 000 people who perished during that horrible episode in our history?

Frankly, I would ask if any of us can think or speak of that barbarous bloodshed of Gukurahundi as an episode to be proud of.

What we ought to consider seriously is the future of this country as a peaceful, wonderful country with people who have confronted death and lived through the worst periods of a human being.

It is true that many countries have lived through the horror which we have experienced.

Some of the countries have forgotten their horror.

They have transformed their countries into shining beacons of success, the success of all their people.

They have achieved this by remembering episodes during which other countries despaired for their survival.

They too had to struggle to remember that there can be peace and prosperity if the people, as one, remember that they have only one country they can call their own.

We are in the same situation. We fought for our country. All of us have relatives who died during the war.

Yes, we all miss them and wish they were alive today, sitting with us around a fire during this winter, laughing and remembering the good times we had together.

This is the truth. Nothing else can matter.

Nothing else can matter to us.

Comments (2)

Someone once sang about the enermy standing aside and look while we slaughter each other, that is whats happening today.Zanu Pf will use the uniformed forces to subvert the will of the people at all costs. We will at last be forced into a civil war to get rid of those margots. No whiteman here

ZIGGY ZIGAWO - 24 July 2016

Bill Saidi is one of Africa's greatest journalists, a man of rare courage and true vision of an Africa yet to see the light of day. How to turn the police from enemies of the people to friends of the people is one of the great challenges of our time - a challenge not only for Africans but for all of us as we walk alongside terror in all its various forms. Trevor Grundy Whitstable Kent, UK

Trevor Grundy - 25 July 2016

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