Inside the deeply corrupt, incompetent and brutal dictatorship in Zimbabwe, brave voices can still be heard risking life and limb to question the regime and rally the people towards the change they desperately need. With these efforts, Zimbabwe shall rise again. The spirit of Nehanda who inspired the nation’s liberation struggle still lives.
In 2011, I wrote an opinion piece titled, ‘#revolutionminustheAK47’. In it, I shared the story of Vikas Mavhudzi, a 39-year-old Zimbabwean man who was harassed and spent five months in jail on charges of ‘subverting a constitutional government’. His crime was writing on Cde. Morgan Tsvangirai’s Facebook page encouraging him to emulate the Egyptians and start a revolution. The state witness (ZRP, Bulawayo IT department) testified in court that they had failed to find ‘the’ evidence on his Facebook wall. He was set free thereafter. When I read Vikas’ story, I was dumbfounded and a little curious. This was unbelievable to me. I could not believe that Vikas had deleted his post while in custody. I searched for Vikas on Facebook and found him. I also found the post still on his and Cde. Tsvangirai’s walls.
As much as I found this bold move from Vikas inspirational and a signal for collective activism, I laughed at the audacity of such an act in Zimbabwe where people choose peace over violence and the state media controls public communication. I also strongly presented a case on why Africa was not ready for a social media revolution. The fact that Vikas shared his thoughts and only a handful of people saw it, plus the fact that the government could barely navigate social media, was proof enough for me.
I was so sure that I wrote a follow up fictional piece called ‘Vhikas Of Legend’ that was published two weeks before the social unrests that took hold of my nation. It’s a story about a young Zimbabwean (Vikhas) who starts a Facebook movement. His actions lead to his abduction by the state. They bury him in a barrel drum, 6ft underground. He dies there, without anyone knowing what had happened to him. His voice is silenced without regard for his humanity. I wrote that piece in 2012. How times flies.
A lot has happened since then. I’m humbly eating my words quietly in a corner. I was wrong. I was wonderfully wrong. Like Vikas, Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested on the same charges but he moved the needle way up. He changed our consciousness. It is important to remember that Itai Dzamara, a journalist who started #occupyafricaunitysquare movement, was the first voice in recent times to challenge the demagogue of destruction. He is my hero for putting his life on the line and waking all of us from our slumber. He wrote on his Facebook wall:
“They laughed at us! They then hated us! They later tried to kill us! Here we still are, and to be taken more than ever seriously! We want our country back! Let’s go!”
Sadly, the state machinery abducted him and he is still missing to this day. #bringitaiback. The movement has ignited a spirit in Zimbabweans much like that of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi. It has proven to me beyond any doubt that collective activism cannot be predicted when people have had enough. Itai’s young brother, Dr. Patson Dzamara, took the baton and continued the call to end regime injustices in Zimbabwe. I can now vehemently say, yes! Yes! Sub-Sahara Africa is ready to harness the power of social media to bring about material change to our country.
Pastor Evan Mawarire shared a well-articulated message on Facebook which became #ThisFlag movement. It ignited our minds and charged us with a burning desire to voice our frustrations.
Zimbabweans across the world rallied around our flag and remembered what we are capable of. This movement has convinced me that posting on Facebook can be a revolutionary act. Citizens answered the pastor’s call to #shutdownzimbabwe. Similar to Itai, he urged people to use peace as a revolutionary act. The subsequent chain of events has changed Zimbabweans forever. It is a crack in our nation’s history that we need to seize and change the regime as soon as possible.
The irony of this narrative is that history has repeated itself. Pastor Mawarire was jailed for the same charges as Vikas but he somehow managed to rally a nation beyond social media.
So, what has changed over the past five years? Why has Pastor Evan succeeded where others have failed? The answer is simple. People are fed up with the corruption, poverty, currency shortage, unemployment and the fake bond notes that the government has proposed as a remedy to the cesspool of their doing. The discourse has changed from a submissive to an active citizenry. Zimbabweans cannot take it anymore. The blatant dictatorship that has enriched ministers and their cronies has gone too far. These wayward struggle heroes parade their contempt for the law and flash their plunder brazenly, like peacocks in courtship.
Success is all relative in this instance. Real change is beyond Facebook and street protests. We need to attack the system that has created this mess and all its associated policies and laws. The constitution must be revised to reflect the will of the people and their wishes for the future. Zanu PF believe that they are above the law. This is why they can confidently send the police to brutalise people and neutralise the loud voices reminding them of their mandate to represent their constituencies’ interests in a fair manner.
Vice President Phelekezela Mpoko’s insult on the nation of spending their taxes on a lavish hotel room is proof that abuse of power is permitted and tolerated. At this rate, the only option that they will have at their disposal is to use excessive and brutal force to shut up the citizens.
I’m a victim of this disregard of rules and its ramifications. I applied for a new passport and paid $300, which was stolen by a passport office worker. I was told to pay again and once an investigation had been concluded, they would refund me. Everything was blamed on the system and the worker became a target to divert attention from a system that is rotten to the core. Do they think of the worker and his circumstances? Do they actually give a shit that they have not paid him and that he is resorting to such practices to feed his family? Of course not. They want to accumulate as much bounty as they can before their time runs out.
Factionalism has torn into the ruling party with former Vice President Mai Joyce Mujuru forming her People First organisation. Zanu PF party members are either being blackmailed, ridiculed by Dr Mai Mugabe or unceremoniously discharged. Many have been sidelined to protect the interest of a chosen few. The Reserve Bank coffers are empty and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa had the audacity to go and beg for hand outs from former colonial masters. The same people they have insulted.
The law is being used to further undermine citizens’ intelligence by creating shadow by-laws to mask the cancer on our nation. Police road-blocks and inflated number plate fees serve to rob the people of their hard earned cash to plug ministries that are bankrupt. “Where is the $15 billion?”, citizens continue to ask. The Commander-in-Chief and his puppets plead ignorance.
Itai Dzamara and Pastor Evan Mawarire have cast a bright light on a deep-seated web of incompetent and, frankly, evil people driving Zimbabwe to the ground. We must continue to protest. We must continue to use social media to agitate against the rotten head, but our efforts must be precise to achieve real change. The intersection of culture and abuse of power has created a leadership that treats its citizens like idiots who will obey their utterances without question. We need to protest on specific policies until they are rendered meaningless.
The time has come for us, the children of Zimbabwe, to roll up our sleeves and join our countrymen and women on the streets of Harare, Mutare, Kwekwe and Bulawayo and chase this scourge out of our land. Our resilience is our greatest weapon. We still have resources left and entrepreneurial intelligence to build on what we have. Let us use them to build a nation we can be proud of.
The time is now.
* Charles Nhamo Rupare is a Zimbabwean writer and champion for change.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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