Binga Police Sabotage Youth Sports Festival

Youths in the Lusulu area in Binga were left dumbfounded after police barred them from taking part in a youth sports for peace festival organized by the National Youth Development Trust (NYDT)on Saturday, 22nd of January 2011.

Upon arrival at Lusulu High School the organisers were summoned to the police station where they were informed that the event should not proceed as planned because it needed to be cleared from Hwange District and not Binga. They claimed that Binga police only deal with small meetings and not big events like the one the organization sought to hold. Hwange district is more than 200km away from where the event was scheduled to be held.

 

Warming up at the abandoned Sports for Peace Festival in Binga

 

 

It is also alleged that the same police officers had on the previous day visited most homesteads, threatening community members and warning them not to attend the event. The headmaster of Lisulu High School was also warned against hosting the peace event, forcing him to instruct boarding school students to be locked away on the day of the festival.

Regardless of a notification letter sent to the police through Cllr Mukombwe on 17th of January 2011, the NYDT team and the Ward Councilor were summoned to Binga police station, where they were interrogated and threatened with arrest by the officer in Charge only identified as Superintendent Makara. The officers also chased away young people and other spectators who had gathered at the venue as soon as the organizing team was summoned to the police station.

Superintendent Makara claimed that he had not received the notification letter as he was not at the station at the time the letter was delivered. Interestingly enough though, during the heated arguments he had with the NYDT team, he confessed having seen the letter and stressed that it was supposed to have been submitted to Hwange.

Officers manning the station exhibited arrogance and disrespect for the ward councilor as they constantly asked him to identify himself claiming that they did not know who he was. They also asked Mr Liberty Bhebhe, the Director of NYDT and Mr Njabulo Moyo, NYDT projects Officer, to produce identity documents from their employer. After explaining to the officers that as an organization they didn’t have such Identity cards they were threatened with twelve hours detention each.

Youths who had been dispersed by the police were seen hanging around nearby shops with the hope that the issue would be resolved soon to make way for the netball and football matches to start. Binga residents stressed that harassment of this nature has become common in the area and that police are largely abusing their powers through sabotaging Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) activities. They also said that there seems to be a waging war between local leaders and the police force.

“ This is not the first time that police have disrupted events I am a part of. I think they have a vendetta against me” Said Cllr Mukombwe.
“This event would have been a great success if you young people had not involved the local councilor.” said an elderly man who witnessed the incident “ The police probably think this event is politically motivated because this councilor is an MDC T official.”

 

Youths look on in disappointment after Police stop theBinga Sports for Peace Festival

 

 

Among other statements that clearly indicated abuse of power and a lack of concern for the people he serves, the Officer in Charge told the NYDT team that the activity was not going to take place and that he had nothing to lose or gain as he hails from Gokwe.

Another cause for concern is the fact that none of the police officers who addressed the team spoke in a local Tonga or Sindebele language. They addressed everyone in Shona even when they realised that not everyone there understood the language.

“This adversely affects the whole community and stalls progress towards community development initiatives. The police force also needs to duly respect community leaders and avoid ridiculing them in public.” Said NYDT director, Liberty Bhebhe. “Otherwise this is confirmation that these officers do not have Binga’s interests at heart and hence do not prioritise community development initiatives in the area” he added.

Bhekimpilo Ndlovu, a young lady who had travelled over 50 kilometers to participate in the sports festival, expressed dismay at the police officers’ conduct. She stated that netball is her passion and she had hoped to fully utilize her talent as well as benefit a lot from the discussions that were later going to be conducted by the organisation.

NYDT donated some sports equipment to the disappointed youths so that they could continue with the sport initiative in their ward despite NYDT’s absence and in the hope that the team would soon return to hold a full programme of the peace building initiative.

The Binga Sports Festival is just one in a series of youth friendly events NYDT is holding in the Matabeleland region as youth friendly initiatives to build team work and get young people to engage on peace building, democracy and governance issues. Events like arts concerts, mobile cinemas, workshops, public lectures and policy dialogue meetings designed especially to engage youths are lined up for areas like Insiza, Gwanda, Lupane, Hwange, Beitbridge, Nkayi and Tsholotsho amongst other areas.

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