Two young children wearing faded blue track suits ran along a dusty roadside in my home town on a cool spring morning this week.
They were pushing home-made wire cars, the wheels made from shoe polish tins, the steering from long pieces of steel wire, their faces alight with glee.
Further on a little boy was rolling an old car tyre down the road; the tyre was almost as big as him and he was being pursued by a couple of other little boys, their shouts of excitement audible over the noise of passing cars.
It’s three days before schools open for the summer term here and while the children play and laugh their parents are stuck in a nightmare situation trying to access their own money from the banks in order to pay school fees. Hundreds are queuing outside the banks, sitting on the pavements and waiting in the sun and the dust as I write.
As it has been many times in the last sixteen years, getting children back into school is about the only normal thing about life in Zimbabwe this September.
For the past few months the whole country has been in turmoil. On a knife edge, the newspapers call our current situation. Zimbabwe’s winter of 2016 will be remembered as one of extreme discontent.
It has been a time of tear gas and water cannons, of police wielding batons mercilessly and of scores of people arrested for daring to demonstrate against the state of our country and its governance.
Hardly a week has gone by without a protest and a rash of new activist groups have filled our exhausted, downtrodden population with hope and a belief that there really can be a better Zimbabwe. Then came the damning news of Statutory Instrument 101 A.
It came on Thursday the 1st of September, the same day as a solar eclipse dimmed the daylight and brought a cold wind into the country. It’s a sign, everyone was saying, because S.I. 101A/2016 also came on the same day as the latest rumour about the health of our 92 year old President.
In the last few days large numbers of police have also become very visible in towns around the country: some are in riot gear wearing helmets, carrying shields and the dreaded baton sticks (truncheons), others are in blue uniform: on foot, in trucks and in the back of open pick-up trucks with dogs. A show of force undoubtedly.
Statutory Instrument 101 A/2016 has banned public demonstrations in and around central Harare for the next two weeks, until the 16th September. The ban has been imposed on both organizers and participants and attracts a penalty of a fine of $300 or one year’s imprisonment or both.
In addition to the protests ban, the police have banned the carrying of dangerous weapons for three months. The list includes guns, knives, daggers, swords axes, machetes, knobkerries and catapults but strangely enough there’s no mention of baton sticks (truncheons): the one weapon that’s done the most damage to hundreds of ordinary people in the last few months.
Sitting on the top of a kopje looking out at the breathtaking beauty of spring in Zimbabwe I knew that despite this latest oppression, there is no doubt that a new resolve and determination has been born in the hearts of ordinary Zimbabweans because now, finally, enough is enough. Spring has taken hold and a new beginning awaits.
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