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By Dumisani Kufaruwenga

The year is 2003.

The place is Gweru.

The country is Zimbabwe.

The two main characters are lawyers. The first one is called Decadent. The second one has a long name. He’s called Rebel The Lover Of The Owners Of Manyika Land. For purposes of this piece, it will be shortened to “Rebel.”

Fast forward, Decadent and Rebel still live to this day.

The atmosphere is full of tension. Remember we’re in Gweru, nineteen years ago. 

A political outfit called Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) has just been formed. It’s aim is to wrestle power from the ruling Zanu PF party. The MDC has tough characters at it’s helm. Morgan Tsvangirai. Welshman Ncube. Tendai Biti. Among others.

MDC looks certain to win .

 The courage, such as is being exhibited by Morgan Tsvangirai, is invincible, everyone muses.

He has survived the physical violence of Robert Mugabe’s honchos.

But Morgan Tsvangirai still died anywhere. 

 It is Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti who lived.

Back to the present, which is 2003. Remember, that’s where we are. In Gweru. 

The MDC has to operate underground. A ruthless dictator called Robert Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe. His mission is to annihilate the opposition. His favorite weapon is violence.

   “We have degrees in violence.”

Robert Mugabe makes this announcement publicly, to the thunderous applause of his supporters.

Under the cover of darkness, the MDC has set up structures in Gweru and ardent members have been given positions with fancy titles. Organising Secretary. Financial Controller. Public Relations Officer. Head of District Administration. Political Commissar. And so forth.

Intriguing.

Taking up these positions is a dangerous act of courage. Everyone knows that President Robert Mugabe takes no prisoners. 

After all, his Zanu PF party has degrees in violence.

The locals hold the office bearers in awe, with both trepidation and admiration.

The locals know who the office bearers are, but keep this secret from outsiders.

They know that it is a crime to oppose Robert Mugabe.

But still, Robert Mugabe’s secret service has sniffed out the MDC office bearers.

In this stormy night of this today’s date, in this year of our Lord 2003, members of Robert Mugabe’s secret service have stormed the residences of the MDC office bearers.

The raid has been well planned and has been brilliantly executed. Members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Law and Order section have been roped in. Together with members of the secret service, the CID have, in one fell swoop, raided the townships of Mtapa, Mkoba, Senga, Ascot and Mambo, and they have detained the MDC office bearers at various nearby police stations.

It is a night of violence, reminiscent of the historical “night of the long knives.”

Nearly all office bearers of the MDC have been rounded up and have been brutally battered and shoved into stinking police cells by Robert Mugabe’s secret service men and their CID accomplices.

The two lawyers Decadent and Rebel have been alerted of the calamity and carnage. They are driving from police station to police station, compiling data of the names, addresses, injuries, and positions of the detainees. 

It’s a nightmare. 

The conditions in which the detainees are being held are altogether appalling, and the injuries that have been inflicted on them are  heartrending.

Robert Mugabe’s goons mean business.

At some of the police stations, Decadent and Rebel are simply being denied access to the detainees.

But at others, they are scoring successes and actually manage to speak to, and see their clients.

In this Robert Mugabe’s era, seeing and speaking to a client who is a political prisoner, is an achievement for the lawyer.

That’s how bad it is.

It’s now daybreak, and Decadent and Rebel have compiled a list of twenty three detainees, and they are driving towards Gweru Central Police Station where other detainees are held.

At Gweru Central Police Station, Decadent and Rebel come face to face with members of the CID, who block the doorway to the charge office where the political detainees are held.

   “We are under orders to warn you not to interface with our prisoners. If you disobey this order, we’ll treat you like prisoners”

Stern faced, mean looking CID officers yell the above message to Decadent and Rebel.

Decadent and Rebel do not back down. They charge;

   “Our clients have a Constitutional right to have access to lawyers. You can’t stop us from seeing them.”

And violence erupts.

Decadent and Rebel are  manhandled by members of the CID and are thrown backwards like rag dolls, banging the back of their heads against the charge office walls. They are thrown out of the building onto the streets.

The lawyers pick themselves up and they dust off the humiliation as best they can.

Their clients have been released after being forced to pay fines for “engaging in conduct likely to provoke the breach of peace.”

Through some hideous twist of fate, in Zimbabwe, the victims of political violence perpetrated by the Government or it’s supporters, are themselves turned into criminals.

The office bearers of the MDC refuse their lawyers’ advice to sue their captors, for fear of attracting and inviting further violence to themselves.

Robert Mugabe’s strategy is working.

But the lawyers have themselves been wronged.

They fight back the best way they know how.

They sue.

And today, in this year of our Lord 2023,  Decadent and Rebel have won in Court, substantial damages for pain and suffering arising from the assault perpetrated on them by the police. They’ve also been awarded by the Court, damages for contumelia (injured feelings), as against the police and the Minister of Home Affairs.

In sympathy with the two lawyers, Patrick Kombayi, who is also a victim of political violence who was himself shot and maimed by members of Robert Mugabe’s secret service, has banned members of the CID from patronizing his hotel, the Midlands Hotel, where the lawyers are drinking the proceeds of their Court victory.

Fast forward, Patrick Kombayi has died.

The MDC has not won power.

It has split several times, and the core of the original MDC has changed its name to “Citizens Coalition For Change,(CCC)” which is being led by Nelson Chamisa.

Robert Mugabe has been dethroned in a military coup.

 He has died.

It is therefore a historical fact that both the perpetrators and victims of political violence eventually die.

That’s why Decadent and Rebel are scared.

   (Dedicated to Reginald Chidawanyika, a lawyer who is brave)

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