More than a decade ago driving to and from work actually used to be a pleasure. Today you thank your lucky stars if you arrive to your destination without a major incident.
High unemployment and poverty has created a huge band of armed robbers and car jackers. Zimbabwe, like most African countries believes it is safe from its own citizens if it is armed to the teeth, so the defence budget will always surpass even that of health.
The result of our governments' paranoia is that we end up with small arms in the wrong hands. Although Zimbabwe's cases of gun totting robbers is not as high as in neighbouringSouth Africa, the numbers are increasing at an alarming rate.
The political and economic decline has also seen a large number of defene forces deserting and taking up crime. We have read several stories of policemen or soldiers absconding with guns and the weapons later being used in robberies.
In the past year some of those small arms were also used by people linked to the then ruling party, ZANU PF to intimidate and attack opposition supporters. Press reports revealed that some members of the army and police had during that period used small arms to beat the opposition into submission.
Securing a robust Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) should be high priority for every country that values rule of law, human rights and democracy. The ATT should be a legally binding agreement between States that should be used to assess whether or not to exportconventional arms. Every government owes it to its nationals to ensure that the globalarms market is regulated to prevent weapons landing in the hands of human
rights abusers, terrorists and insurgents.
Last year Zimbabwe experienced a tense moment when a ship docked in Durban, South Africa ready to offload arms shipped from China, at a time when political violence in the country had reached unprecedented levels. Human rights activists worked tirelessly to ensure the arms would not find their way into Zimbabwe. Worries were that the arms would be used against civillians seen as enemies of the State.
It is sad to note that on 31 October 2008, at the United Nations General Assembly Zimbabwe and the United States voted against a resolution towards the establishment of an ATT while 147 countries voted in favour and 18 abstained.
Any government that believes in unfettered access to arms must know that one day those very same arms might be turned against it - Africa bears massive evidence of this. Irresponsible trade in arms threatens any efforts towards world peace and sustainable development.
A group of 150 students will on 15 June visit the Foreign Office to start what is a week of action to support moves towards an Arms Trade Treaty. The United Kingdom needs other nations to help make the arms market safe.