By Sheryleen Masuku
Zimbabwe National Students Union ZINASU President, Takudzwa Ngadziore has appealed to the Zimbabwean government to stop its clampdown on student activists.
He was speaking in an interview with Sly Media News using a foreign mobile line, for what he says is ‘security reasons.’
“The government or the regime ought to create an accommodating or conducive environment which will let student’s activists participate or further their mandate without hindrances,” he said.
“Hindrances such as unjust arrests, abductions, torture and the labelling which comes, in which the regime feels like we are puppets of the West, sometimes they call us scholarship beneficiaries, and at times there are there to thwart the democratic space and all this is toxic in terms of having a well-established student movement.”
Ngadziore has been arrested a several of times and assaulted by state agents and has written some of his exams from prison as a result of taking part in student movements. He says he was advised to leave the country for security reasons.
“I was informed that it was wiser to make the move for security reasons. State surveillance has been high on my end”.
He appealed to students in Zimbabwe to continue with student activism and hold the government to account over political and social issues.
“Students ought to always know that there are citizens first, before there are students and their silence on issues affecting ordinary citizens is just but, a taboo”.
He said student activism should also speak to issues which are affecting the general population of Zimbabwe and the citizens.
“Issues pertaining to remuneration of our parents and guardians for example, also affect us. Issues pertaining to the fuel situation or electricity, also affect students. It is the duty of student activists to speak to the life of a student when they wake up to when they sleep. And by that, it refers actually even to the basic prices of basic commodities, it speaks to every issue”.
Ngadziore’s comments were made following the recent arrest of two student’s leaders Nancy Njenge and Paida Masaraure.
The students were wearing ZINASU T-shirts and they were charged with inciting public violence.
Their arrests sparked an outcry from students and human rights activists across the country who accused
Zimbabwe Republic Police ZRP of persecuting student activists.
ZINASU has since started an online campaign under hashtag “I wear my Zinasu T-shirt”.
Students across the country have used the hashtag to post their ‘selfies’ wearing their union regalia, in defiance of the continued state persecution of their leaders.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights ZLHR Lawyer, Doug Coltart who represented the two students who were arrested in Harare recently, said students feel that the main reason they are targeted by ZRP is often linked to their ZINASU t-shirts.
“The reason students feel that way, is because on at least two occasions police have explicitly mentioned the fact that they were wearing a ZINASU t-shirt moments before arresting them on frivolous charges, he told Sly Media News.
“In one case, the state witness, a police officer, actually testified in court that the reason he first approached the students was because he saw that they were wearing a ZINASU t-shirt.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been criticised for the continued arrests of student activists amid growing concerns that re-introduction of the National Youth Service will weaken student movements.
Political analyst and author of, Student Politics and Activism in Zimbabwe: The Frustrated Transition, Leo Zeilig said NYS was effectively used by the late President Robert Mugabe to weaken student’s movements which almost toppled his regime in the nineties.
“At the peak of their resistance, the government introduced NYS and the famed Green bombers as a third pillar to divide the movement and break resistance.”
“These initiatives were conscious efforts to use students/ youth to break opposition politics”.
Zeilig said students need to engage with radical opposition in Zimbabwe and hold authorities to account while maintaining their own independence.
“Critical engagement with radical opposition and independence of approach in the student movement is essential”.
Zeilig said students need to learn from the old 90’s student movements which almost unseated Zanu PF.
“The student movement in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s and early 2000s was a tribute to the oppressed powering the almighty mass movement that almost unseated ZANU in 1999 and after. Students today need to learn or relearn their own history”.