Dictators and despots; regimes that hang on to power through fear, violence, and intimidation; operate from a posture of fear; fearing external enemies, but most importantly, fearing their own people. They fear losing power, and having to be held to account for their misdeeds. They fear losing the things they have pillaged and looted from the people. But, one of the things they fear most is TRUTH.
The last thing a dictator wants is for the people know the truth, and they will often go to great lengths to keep that truth from filtering down to the population.
Today, I was scheduled to meet with a group of young people in the Midlands Province town of Kwekwe in Zimbabwe’s southwest. We were to discuss the topic “Youth Leadership – How do youth get the leadership they deserve?” Now, I know that can be considered a sensitive topic, touching as it does the quality of political leadership under which young people must live and try to make successful lives for themselves. But, there was no hidden agenda; no plotting; just a conversation with young people about what kind of futures they want for themselves.
All the requirements were met. The organizers of the event had, as is required by local regulations, notified the police and had received written clearance to go ahead. They’d been promised that the police would provide security and ensure they were not molested. Then, yesterday, apparently it came to someone’s attention that I would be present, and everything changed. Suddenly, the police decided that the event couldn’t take place, so they went to the venue this morning and ordered everyone to leave. Then, they locked the doors.
Someone, and here, since I don’t know who, I’ll just obviously someone important, mobilized groups of uninformed young people to protest my presence; going so far as to print leaflets that were distributed around, basically saying they should only honor the heroes that were approved by the government, and not listen to a ‘dangerous’ outsider like me.
In all fairness, none of the scores of military, police, and intelligence officers that appeared almost out of nowhere said anything to me or made any attempt to prevent me from moving around Kwekwe. In fact, I felt a little like Typhoid Mary; except for a few independent media and the organizers of the meeting, no one paid me any attention. One intelligence type, querying one of my hosts about the content of our conversation, was invited to join us to hear for himself what was being discussed - he declined. I guess I’m not only considered too dangerous to speak to young people here, but even some officials want to avoid coming into contact with me. Whatever I have, it seems to be considered contagious.
Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to live with it. I think those who want to keep young people in the dark, ignored until they’re needed for the odious task of intimidating others, are doing themselves, the young people, and the country, a great disservice. You can hide from the truth for a long time, but like the sun in the morning, it will eventually rise and shed light on the dark untruths that are used to keep people down.