HARARE – Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (Zinasu) has condemned the injury of at least nine people when police in Papua New Guinea opened fire on student protesters last Wednesday.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill — whom protesters were calling on to resign amid accusations of corruption — blamed “agitators responsible for instigating a violent confrontation”.
Witnesses said that students had gathered on the University of Port Moresby campus, and were intending to go to Parliament to protest when police blocked them from leaving and opened fire.
Zinasu spokesperson, Zivai Mhetu, yesterday called the shootings “barbaric, callous and fascist”.
“What the police did in Papua New Guinea is appalling and despicable,” Mhetu said. “As a students’ union that operates in a country where on more than one occasion student activists have been walloped by the sjambok of State brutality, Zinasu empathises with the students of the University of Port Moresby and those from other institutions involved in protests against corruption.”
Mhetu said the students— who have been holding a five-week long protest against O’Neil — were an inspiration to students in other African countries where State officials “shamelessly eat the rotten fruits of corruption while serving citizens the stale bread of bad governance.”
Said Mhetu: “As the students of Zimbabwe we are inspired by Papua New Guinea students who took it upon themselves to challenge State corruption. Our country is also afflicted by the malignant cancer of corruption and it is time for students in Zimbabwe to take a leaf from them.
“The time has come for us to come out of our closets of fear, shells of docility and cocoons of indifference to confront our government whose officials seem to have the last supper mentality – that of believing their current loot maybe their last, hence it has to be greater than their previous one and all those before it.”
Mhetu said that the student community was the vanguard of democracy in Zimbabwe as well as the voice of the voiceless and thus had a duty to fight for the oppressed and downtrodden who are being adversely affected by the ubiquitous corruption in the country.
Added Mhetu, “The student community in Zimbabwe has a historic role to play in challenging State corruption. This role that has been played by our predecessors and should also be played by those who come after us.
“Students in the late 80s led by the likes of Arthur Mutambara and Enoch Chikweche — now Munyaradzi Gwisai — fought against cases of corruption such as the Willowgate scandal. Now a scandal much bigger than the Willowgate scandal has been experienced in our country — that of the $15 billion of State revenue which disappeared into thin air.
“We, as the students of Zimbabwe, cannot let an egregious act of that magnitude go unchallenged.”