HomeEditorial CommentPoliticians should spare the children

Politicians should spare the children

Two athletes are competing in the 100m dash.

From the Editor’s Desk by Nevanji Madanhire

One is way ahead of the pack but two metres before the tape he looks back and sees his teammate has tripped and fallen.

Instead of taking the few remaining steps to finish the race, he turns back and sprints towards his colleague, whom he lifts up and together they continue the race.

Needless to say they finish last. The crowd is amazed at the incident and puzzled to see the pair celebrate their achievement.

It is an incident often told with dry humour, but those who witnessed it say it was the most touching incident of the Special Olympics of that day. Only a Special athlete can behave that way! What is a Special athlete?

“Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 4 million athletes in 170 countries.

Special Olympics competitions are held every day, all around the world—including local, national and regional competitions, adding up to more than 53 000 events a year.”

Few people have heard or acknowledged the presence of Special Olympics in Zimbabwe. Even fewer have heard about the sterling work done by that indomitable woman named Bonny Woodman. But this article is neither about the organisation called Special Olympics Zimbabwe nor about Woodman; it is about Christpowers Maisiri.

A local daily newspaper, reporting on the tragic death of Christpowers in Headlines recently said information it gathered indicated that Christpowers was in Grade 4 at Ruura Primary School.

He was partially disabled and had Down syndrome. By including this piece of information hidden towards the end of the story, the newspaper sought to downplay the boy’s death as that of a mentally retarded lad who couldn’t figure out how to escape an ordinary fire which four of his siblings survived.

This is totally in bad taste.

Christpowers was a Special child; sad even his teachers didn’t know this. One of the teachers who spoke to the press said the boy had not gone to school the previous day because there had been a sport event. Christpowers had been excluded from the event — even as a spectator — ostensibly because he was a Down child.

When the rest of the world is working hard to integrate mentally disabled children into mainstream society, Zimbabwean teachers are excluding them from events the rest of the children are participating in and — Dear God — politicians are burning them!

Christpowers is the kind of individual who would run in a race and win it by lifting up his colleague instead of hitting the tape. It’s a special kind of victory that obviously goes against the kind of conventional rat-race kind of victory expounded by “normal” humans.

Christpowers would have found Usain Bolt’s victory sick if it meant leaving everyone else lying on the ground in pain. That is the kind of victory our politicians love. To win elections, they have to crush everyone in their path, even if it means burning down homes in which Special children are sleeping.

There is a failure here that goes beyond imagination.

Christpowers’s death overshadowed another act of political violence related to his in more ways than one. Last week, across the country from Headlands, businessman Temba Mliswa, appeared before a Chinhoyi magistrate facing charges of assaulting Hurungwe East member of the House of Assembly, Sarah Mahoka, at a business centre the previous week.

Mliswa is a senior member of Zanu PF and is nephew of another senior member of the same party, Didymus Mutasa, fingered in the Headlines arson. Neither Mliswa nor Mutasa have been convicted yet for the crimes they are accused of; the law is taking its course. But what is interesting is that the two are generations apart, separated by nearly 40 years.

Now we are looking at a sad state of affairs; the mere fact the two are fingered in acts of political violence (they are still innocent until proven guilty) means violence is probably in their party’s DNA. How else can it be explained that the younger man who is supposed to take over from the older politician is using the same old tactics that have been the bane of their party over the years?

When one member of a party is involved in acts of violence, it cannot be put beyond the other that he is also using the same tactic. That is why the Headlands incident has been so damaging to Zanu PF.

The resurgence of political violence has done the country a great disservice. When everyone in the country and abroad was beginning to see signs of hope; when so much international goodwill had begun to be shown by the international community, this happens.

Zimbabweans are upbeat about the new constitution which goes to a referendum this month and are eagerly looking forward to the general elections later in the year. The European Union had begun the process of easing damaging sanctions because they were beginning to see progress in the resolution of our crisis. And this happens!

President Robert Mugabe was almost convincing in his peace sermons, but doubt has re-emerged. Many doubted his sincerity but many more were beginning to see the emergence of an Elder Statesman fighting to sanitise his legacy.

Whatever happened in Headlands and Hurungwe smacks him right in the face.

President Mugabe has to act decisively in a manner that makes an unequivocal statement that violence will not be tolerated from any quarter. But his message has first to be made to sink into the minds of the police. Arresting one alleged perpetrator and leaving another to roam free is hardly the best advertisement for an unbiased police force.

The message the world gets is that there are small fish and big fish in the same pond and only the small fish will be held to account.

Mugabe’s message of peace cannot succeed without a concomitant vow of professionalism and impartiality on the part of the police.

Politicians are dirty players in a dirty game; without a professional police force a country is doomed. It is important that the police play their referring role.

Unfortunately, the political game is played in a playground full of innocent people; and it is the innocent children who are most vulnerable. As Christpowers begins to decompose underground, let’s think of the children; they are all special.

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