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Gwanda’s Dave Thompson and the racial ‘baboon’ slur: Why is Zimbabwe silent?

By Taenda Mushambi

The case of a Rhodesian raised white wealthy Gwanda patriarch who stands accused of racially abusing black realtors and representatives who had legitimately come to his life-lease home to assess the property as is standard, calling them baboons and intimidating them with an assault rifle late last year caused a few shrieks on social media.

But that is all there was. Shrieks. And then radio silence.

David ‘Dave’ Thompson, a connected and wealthy Gwanda businessman from a family of gold miners, had attracted ugly and unwanted attention that is likely to displease and rope in his family and business partners, giving them attention that they would otherwise not have wanted.

Yet he is also a man previously accused of being able to mysteriously worm his way out of tough situations as well as pay his way to peace after causing a fracas. The media was largely silent in the wake of the allegations.

Only one brave online media house kept the fire burning when it seemed even law enforcement in the gold mining town were sleeping on the report. At best, they were inept. At worst-well anything sinister can be read into it.

Then down south in Zimbabwe’s own back yard, the video of assault two weeks later on two black South African youth made the headlines and the whole country, at least especially the progressive majority that do not tolerate even a whiff of racism in the air, caused a raucous of nuclear proportions.

One so apocalyptic it could shake the core of the earth leaving nothing in it’s wake alive save for cockroaches and their celebrated ability to survive even the worst of Armageddon.

And because the citizens made so much noise, the case made its way into even international media outlets including the New York Times which accorded its generous space asking some of the most probing questions as to why post colonial Africa still has these rabid remnant Rhodesians, South African white supremacists and bigots when the rest of the world has moved on and most importantly what to do to ensure they are confined to history.

The case in South Africa quickly got brought to the judiciary with great urgency and the attention it deserved.

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, old Dave Thompson was enjoying the Zimbabwean sunshine with the case curiously not moving at all until the online publication and a few people who are keeping a keen eye on it kept probing.

True to the expected traits, the police could not find the old accused in a town as large as a kindergarten pupil’s handkerchief and when they did, the case hobbled to court, with journalists who asked to see the charge sheet being sent from pillar to post despite their obvious right to information in that regards.

But a veil of silence and conspiracy does not last forever even in a small sleepy town where the wealthy get protections from even bodies that should be promoting equity for all and sundry across the board without fear but most importantly without favour.

The hawks who are following the case, despite being few, have shown they will be relentless when finally the case goes to court next week on February 15. Some two months after the case was first reported and brought to light.

For a fact and clearly undisputed; old Dave Thompson is an equal before the law and deserves to be protected. Protected by being accorded his rights-the most important being that he is innocent until proven guilty.

But also protected by way of trying him for all that he has been accused of and either being convicted and getting his just desserts, or acquitted and leaving him untamed. Tried and tested before a presumably tried and trusted judiciary.

However, a few things are baffling even before the courtroom is arrived at. Important media houses on the case have been given the run around with one asking for a progress report form the police national spokesperson Inspector Paul Nyathi who diligently checked with his subordinates in Gwanda before being told that no such case had been reported. It had.

It even had an assigned investigating officer and a case RRB number. But somehow, in Gwanda, someone was either incompetent and couldn’t be bothered to find the case or there was an even greater conspiracy which led them to even go the extra mile of lying to a man with as reputable a stature as their national spokesperson. And to what end? To whose protection?

Add to that, the final charge sheet is about as powerful as a shaven Samson at the behest of a powerful and deceitful Delilah. The issue of old Dave Thompson calling the subjects baboons is nowhere near the charge sheet. Not by a country mile.

Racism and racial slurs are, clearly, no longer given the importance of attention they deserve and used to get in decades past.

Instead, he is charged with pointing a firearm at the duo as he promised them that if ever they returned to that property, they would endure the wrath of his assault rifle.

But what has happened to Zimbabwe’s hunger for righting racial injustice which was so high on their agenda in the past? Why have the leaders in fighting racial injustice become so docile and servile to the extent of not only not caring, but also having key institutions seeming to brush allegations under the carpet?

What is the incentive behind one losing their self worth by being called names and whole institutions and a whole nation instead focusing on lewd content online from so called influencers spewing hate against each other or showing their great command of expletives and effusively foul language in the vernacular?

Perhaps the nation would want to retrace their self worth and their journey.

The media used to be a bastion and leader in exposing racism and injustice but the roar is now but a whimper.

Gone are the nineties where the alarming story of a man who was made to come to work every day and stand inside a circle drawn for him in the sun where he was meant to stand all day until work closed was exposed and shook the foundations of the nation, with everyone tearing their hair out in demand for justice.

That world had racists and bigots crawling and knowing there was no country for Rhodesians because the sun had set upon their dream and the progressive person’s nightmare.

And yet with this inertia, many other repulsive remnant racists can thrive knowing their skin colour, white privilege, a few cents thrown the way of corrupt, self deprecating low lives in power can spare them the deserved fate of being outed and censured.

The best outcome for Dave Thompson would have been to be tried for his alleged racist conduct so we know whether he said what he is alleged to have said. As things stand, we will never know. We will never know too who decided it wasn’t a worthy issue to probe and decided, in their ‘wisdom’ to not make that issue see the light of day in open court.

And yet perhaps the light in all of this lies in the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission where the abused intend to take the racial assault challenge to after being let down in other corridors. If the authorities bugled it, it is unfortunate, if they conspired, it is outrageous and stinks.

Fortunately though, all eyes will be on Gwanda and the dispensing of justice to ensure that it is not an outpost of tyranny where injustice thrives for certain races, but rather a place where all is fairly and justly put out to the court of justice and given due attention.

Nobody wants to keep guessing what would have happened had a case been fairly followed up. And as a man who was at the helm when a gold mine crushed many lives to death with allegations of negligence flying and then a sudden closure of the said mine under dubious circumstances, Dave Thompson knows he got away with that case, but shouldn’t sleep easy knowing he wasn’t tried for such an important case.

And now, many decades later, he, hopefully stands in the dock to clear his name on half a charge of something he is now accused of today.