A thief was caught, and the truth was bled out of him


by Lawrence Mainja

To some, the picture of a dreadlocked young man receiving a vicious beating and confessing to theft is nothing but a case of instant justice. A thief was caught, and the truth was bled out of him. Simple.

To others, the mild violence is nothing but a mirroring of societal frustrations that are a result of muffled political voices.

In this clip, it is difficult to separate the horror from dark humor. Most find themselves both horrified but sometimes entertainment by the confession and the conversation.

Mahatma Gandhi the go-to guy for pacifists once observed that “poverty is the worst form of violence.”

Without inferring too much into the economic background of the parties involved in this public service of justice, it is easy to notice that the setting of this public court jesting smells of the downtrodden-ness and poverty that characterize the daily life of our 93-year-old president’s beloved jewel. Gandhi further objected to violence saying, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” It is refreshing that the thief does confess but this sets out a bad precedent for all those who catch suspected thieves. They will be tempted to beat them and record. And, we become more lawless and brutal than we are right now. But, this also has deeper roots beyond the man with the whip – our government.  

For decades, violence has remained the modus operandi of those in power. Its use though minimal has been effective. Relying on shock and the sensationalism that characterize the soap opera of the Stunner-Olinda types. The cases of violence though limited have managed to cripple a nation. Outright violence has been replaced by outright fear. In those emotionally brutalized by the state, the only outlet is the brutalization of fellow men.

Because a veneer of law and order exists, it is those who are deemed to be living at the edge of morality who have become victims and objects of the pacification of citizen rage. Petty thieves, errant children, prostitutes and cheaters are now unwitting symbols as well as victims of violence.

Now, we all believe that individuals who break the law should be dealt with accordingly. The question raised by many is; is the kind of punishment capture by camera worth the crime.

A number of videos have emerged that show mild violence. This other day, someone posted a video on a Whatsapp Group of police officers beating up a couple they found in an uncompromising position in the woods. Am sure laws exist to prosecute such crimes or misdemeanors. But, beating up two consenting adults just because you found them in the woods shows the level of uncontrollable rage in our daily lives, rage that finds its outlet in the brutalization of so-called misfits.

The dreadlocked man who stole a bunch of cell phones committed a mortal sin of theft. In a nation of laws, the thief should be arrested arraigned before the courts and a balanced sentence administered. But, we are not a nation of laws.
More is at stake in the next election. Videos of ‘ugly’ Zimbabweans like this one will continue to appear on online platforms. In a better nation with equal application of the law, they would be videos about foolishness without the backdrop of violence caused by muffled political voices.

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