‘Now we are waking up’: Zimbabwe protests leader seeks international help

Source: ‘Now we are waking up’: Zimbabwe protests leader seeks international help | World news | The Guardian  Monday 11 July 2016

Evan Mawarire urges foreign governments to put pressure on Robert Mugabe and threatens further shutdowns.

The leader of popular protests in Zimbabwe has called on the international community to put pressure on the government of the 92-year-old autocrat Robert Mugabe to “listen to its own citizens”, and threatened further demonstrations.

Protests paralysed much of the southern African nation last week after Evan Mawarire called for a one-day shutdown. Mawarire, a 39-year-old Baptist pastor, told the Guardian there would be new shutdowns next week – lasting two days this time – if the demands of his #ThisFlag movement were not met.

These demands include the sacking of corrupt ministers, the payment of delayed salaries and the lifting of roadblocks that residents say are used by police to extract bribes.

“The [government] has stolen our money. It is out of touch with the problems we have. It must begin to listen to the people and stamp out the corruption which has crippled out economy,” Mawarire said, speaking from a secret location in Zimbabwe. “The international community cannot help us if we do not help ourselves.”

During last week’s protest, streets were deserted, shops shut and businesses closed in the capital, Harare, the southern city of Bulawayo and elsewhere – the most widespread demonstrations of dissent in Zimbabwe for many years. Many government offices were affected as key staff stayed away.

Organisers say they now fear a fierce crackdown by the authorities. Protesters clashed with police in several locations, scores were hurt and more than 100 demonstrators were arrested.

There are fears that Mawarire, who is in hiding to avoid arrest, will be detained or abducted. “They are stubborn and full of pride,” the pastor said of the government. “Their instinct is to threaten, intimidate, arrest and detain. They have shown that again and again. But we are a non-violent movement. That’s very, very important. It’s a confrontation of truth.”

International campaigners have long criticised Zimbabwe for its poor record on human rights. In March last year Itai Dzamara, a 36-year-old journalist who led a peaceful protest movement, was abducted by armed men. Last week the leader of a new youth political party‚ Viva Zimbabwe‚ was detained. There have been reports that at least two activists involved in the recent shutdown have disappeared and are thought to be in illegal detention.

“It is tough at the moment,” Mawarire said. “They are looking for me. I don’t know what for. I have committed no crime. I have never committed a crime but they will not listen to their fellow citizens.”

Officials have described the protesters as “terrorists” and blame foreign powers for sabotaging the economy and stirring unrest. Ignatious Chombo, the ruling Zanu-PF party’s administration secretary, said western embassies in Harare and opposition parties were trying to cause anarchy. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation described last week’s shutdown as a “flop”.

Government officials warned that “all sim cards in Zimbabwe are registered in the name of the user” and that anyone making offensive or subversive statements on social media “can be easily identified”.

Observers say the pressures on Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, and on Zanu-PF are immense. Mugabe has led the former British colony since independence in 1980. A series of controversial measures over the last 20 years – such as stripping white farmers of land more than a decade ago – have caused massive economic disruption. In 2009, hyperinflation forced Zimbabwe to adopt foreign currencies – largely the US dollar – after its own collapsed. In 2013 Zanu-PF won an election amid widespread claims of vote rigging.

Now the government is struggling to finance its $4bn (£3.1bn) annual budget, and soldiers, police officers, doctors and teachers are being paid weeks in arrears. Foreign investment and donor support has dried up and anticipated aid from China has not materialised. In April the government halved its 2016 growth forecast to 1.4% – an estimate that independent economists believe is optimistic. A drought threatens up to 4 million people with famine.

Analysts say these challenges come amid an increasingly intense internal battle between factions seeking to take power when the increasingly frail Mugabe dies, which has significantly weakened the ruling clique’s ability to respond to the crisis.

“It is always very difficult to call an endgame, they are facing challenges of a much greater scale than they have faced before,” said Brian Raftopoulos, an expert in Zimbabwe at University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

Officials have appealed to the International Monetary Fund and other major multilateral lenders for aid. Zimbabwe already owes $8.3bn, of which $1.8bn is in arrears.

Private companies have been nervous about investing in the politically unstable state in recent years, and though the IMF is reportedly keen to restart lending to Zimbabwe, it is likely to demand wide-ranging reforms in return for assistance.

This poses a dilemma for the ruling party and Mugabe, as many measures may significantly weaken Zanu-PF’s hold on power. “The conditionalities could be about law, process, elections [due in 2018] and property rights. It doesn’t look like the state will be able to respond,” said Raftopoulos.

Some believe further loans would simply allow officials to remain in power and fuel endemic graft.

The protests in recent weeks have bypassed traditional opposition parties such as the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsangvirai. Zimbabwe last witnessed unrest on this scale in April 2007 when Tsvangirai led anti-Mugabe demonstrations.

Besides #ThisFlag, other social media movements have also appeared, such as Tajamuka – “We refuse”, in Zimbabwe’s Shona language – which has launched spontaneous demonstrations in the last month.

This month a handful of protesters stormed a hotel in the centre of Harare protesting against the vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko’s stay there since December 2014, saying this was profligacy by a government that claims it has no money.

Ibbo Mandaza, a leading academic and political commentator in Zimbabwe, said: “Clearly there is a coincidence or intersection of national grievances across the board, economic and political. That intersection has proved lethal in the last days. We are in a new phase of politics.”

In Makokoba township, a suburb of Bulawayo, where protests have broken out, there is evidence of increasingly severe hardship. Herds of goats chew the bare dirt under sparse trees. Garbage litters the edges of the road, and the smell of raw sewage hangs in the air.

“Those who have money will import food,” said a local tour guide. But many had no funds at all. If rains failed again, it would be a disaster, he said.

On a brick wall at the edge of Makokoba, graffiti has been scrawled: “Mugabe out.”

Mawarire said: “We have been sleeping, and we have been beaten, jailed and were afraid. But now we are waking up.”

The pastor, who launched his movement with a video that went viral this year, has said he had been moved to protest when he had been unable to withdraw money from banks to pay school fees for his two children.

Political analysts say divisions in the ruling party over Mugabe’s successor has spilled into state security organs and it may become more difficult to rely on the police to quell political unrest when officers themselves are angry at not being paid.

Mandaza said: “We have a state which is fatally divided, a security sector which is fatally divided. I can see the government increasingly coming under siege, incapable of responding. We are clearly going into a crisis.”

Zanu-PF retains some support, particularly in rural areas. In May several thousand Zimbabweans joined a march through Harare in support of Mugabe after the main opposition party staged its own rally.

The marchers, many of whom had been transported to the capital by bus, sang songs praising the president and wore T-shirts displaying his image as they gathered at a central square to hear him address the crowds.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 15
  • comment-avatar
    Piankhi 6 years ago

    https://www.quora.com/Could-the-U-S-take-over-the-whole-continent-of-Africa/answer/Phillip-Remaker

    This is what Colonial occupation has done to Africa. And any African stupid enough to ask for help from the same murders that raped our people, will get what whites have always given blacks. Nothing but misery, madness, and chaos, along with most of the diseases we suffer from today. Africans, be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

    • comment-avatar
      Fallenz 6 years ago

      Oh yeah, the whites stole all that money that’s been taken from Zim over the past 35 years. The whites let the roads deteriorate to nothing but potholes held together by dirt or tar. The whites are the ones who cut off hands and arms and feet. Whites have let the trains go unserviced, and ruined ZimAir. The whites have caused all the farms to produce less, and created all the hunger. Maybe it was invisible whites who accomplished all that mayhem. Dasterdly folks, them invisible whites, for sure.

      • comment-avatar
        Pedzi Nyashanu 6 years ago

        Correct ,that pastor reads his Bible upside down, he’s a waste of space

    • comment-avatar
      Tsotsi 6 years ago

      Typical. Blame anyone and everyone but Africans themselves. The continent seems congenitally incapable of progress or transition to the modern world. This kind of nonsense does not help: it fosters the culture of dependence and excuse. Paradoxically, it reinforces the idea that Africa is a different case, a ‘special’ case. Rubbish. Look at China: not so long ago nothing more than a semi feudal nation. Then they decided to join the modern world and got to work. They didn’t cry about oppression by the West – which had been true over centuries before. They didn’t hold out the begging bowl for ‘compensation’. They just got on with it.
      African men need to ‘man up’ and take responsibility. Stop playing the eternal victim. Racism is like a comfort blanket for a child. Get over it.

    • comment-avatar
      Doris 6 years ago

      Oh grow up Piankhi. Your racist rhetoric is so out of tune with the Zimbabwean citizens. Do you even live here? The only racists left are those in high places and their reason for their racism is that they know that while the white Zimbabwean worked hard for his earnings, they stole that from them. And don’t start with how the “settlers” took everything from the peasants in 1890. What about the San?

  • comment-avatar
    Michael 6 years ago

    Thirty five years under Mugabe – and the people suffer badly because of bribery, corruption and misrule. What has Mugabe achieved – bar enriching himself and his cronies. I think most people would be relieved to get rid of the dictator who have made them the poorest of poor in a country that was a jewel – in Nyerere’s own words – when it became independent.

  • comment-avatar
    amina 6 years ago

    Its a mean statement and insult to those who sacrificed their lives to allude to the fact that Mugabe led a revolution against the white regime. Mugabe followed the regime after a failed romantic stay in Ghana. His wife after realising that Mugabe as a foreign national could not achieve much prominence in Ghana, influenced the ever smartly dressed teacher to go into politics. When he was in Mozambique instead of fighting the war, he was now fighting to dismantlement approach to promote himself ahead of the carder already there. His first victim was Sithole and the rest of the commanders such as Dzino “Manda” Machingura and Gumbo. The biggest trophy of all this was when he succeeded in killing Gen Tongora. However people must never forget that Mugabe is an opportunist.

  • comment-avatar
    Pedzi Nyashanu 6 years ago

    This pastor thinks the protests were a success, people stayed awa on fear of having their cars stoned by hooligans blocking the roads, now they can’t pay $80 bail, useless bunch of people

    • comment-avatar
      tafadzwa 6 years ago

      Will pay the $80 bail for them. Zanu idiot.

      • comment-avatar
        Piankhi 6 years ago

        DO THAT, AND AFTER HE GETS OUT, YOU CAN THANK JESUS. ANOTHER FAGGOT CHARACTER YOUR MASTER LEFT YOU TO PRAY TO IN YOUR TIME OF NEED. OR MAYBE MUHAMMAD, THAT ENSLAVED AFRICANS 1300 YEARS AGO. MAYBE JEWS. SO MANY TO CHOICE FROM. BUT WHICH ONE IS IN YOUR IMAGE? RELIGION AND POLITICS, BOTH GIVEN TO YOU BY YOUR WHITE OPPRESSORS. WE HAVE SO MUCH THAT IS OURS. LET ME THINK. NOTHING! DO NOT EXPECT TO PRAY TO A WHITE MANS GOD AND EXPECT AN ANSWER. STUPIDITY AND IGNORANCE KILLS. AND MY PEOPLE KEEP DYING EVERYDAY.

        SOME NEGROS DON’T HAVE COMMON SENSE. A PEOPLE WILL NEVER BE FREE WHEN THEY WORSHIP A GOD ASSIGNED TO THEM. AND THEY CAN NEVER RESPECT A BLACK FATHER IN THE HOME, WHEN YOU HAVE A WHITE FATHER HANGING ON THE WALL. MY PEOPLE NEED TO WAKE THEIR ASSES UP. THE JOKES ON US. AND THE WHITE MASTERS PLAYED THE TRICK.

  • comment-avatar
    Piankhi 6 years ago

    Show me a politician in the world that is not a opportunist. You have to understand there is more than what you see. I am not supporting Mugabe, but he is what you have now. And we know his time is almost over. One thing as an African. I will never ever listen to the same people that took our land in the first place. This is not about financial matters of the country. That can be overcome. This is about my people having nothing of our own., No culture, no belief system, but what our oppressors forced on us. We were taught not to trust each other. No unity as a people. Who do you think taught of this mentality. Our oppressors. And they are laughing at us everyday to see how we hate and distrust each other for their image, lifestyle, their beliefs, their Gods. Now who do you think is oppressing us now and in the future to come. This is not about Mugabe and 36 years, this is about what we refuse to talk about is the position that we are in today started 136 years ago. You think 36 years will stop our people from all the forced way of life that has been put on this continent. Mugabe will come and go. But will you and my people go back and learn who we were and how great we were as a people in this continent, before we welcomed this devils in our land that has since then cause nothing but madness and chaos with my people. Most of what we fight about as a people is what the white man give us. We were taught to hate our color, our hair, our customs, Zimbabwe doesn’t even remember our dress. It’s been deleted from our records as a people and now we walk around like white people looking like clowns and fools emulated our oppressors. Who fault is that. Yes those who sacrificed for our freedom would be ashamed at how our people live now. You think they gave their lives for us as a people to continue to follow the same people and murdered, raped, and robbed us of our heritage. I do not think so. Stop focusing on Mugabe, and focus on our future as a people that are willing to work hard to get back what was stolen from us, by our oppressors. Love, unity, culture and belief in our ancestors. Because the truth is now. We are nation of beggars. And afraid to stand on our own. And are willing to sacrifice our future to deal with the same murders that now say they care about us. Sad is all I can say. Live for something that is yours, or die for something somebody else force on you.

    • comment-avatar
      edmore 6 years ago

      much as i dont like to admit it, Piankhi has a point. that we do not want our current government is what unites us, but after that, we still will have the problems we had before. yes lets forget the past and look to the future but we havee to carry our lessons with us. if we are in a bus driving somewhwere and seem lost, then begin to have engine trouble, we will unite in fixing the engine, but when that is done, it will come back to who insists we turn left, right or go straight…

  • comment-avatar
    mushy 6 years ago

    could anyone give me the full and proper definition of ‘man-up’ i’m tired of people who use this phrase loosely as its meaning is lost on me. what is to man up? is it something i do, a method of doing it? maybe if i stick my chest out i’m manning up? WTH

  • comment-avatar
    edmore 6 years ago

    much as i dont like saying it, i have to say @Piankhi has a point. before Mugabe, those were the problems we faced, and in some cases, divisions were planted amongst people to stop them from becoming united and moving forward. now the government, by being a problem has united the people. what happens after? when the government is gone, do we then go to tha same people who opressed us to ask for help? would they not have won, in some way, our own government doing their intentions for them?

  • comment-avatar
    Pastor Haanamhaka 6 years ago

    those who are writing bad about our lovely pastor are idiots from the sinking zanu pf titanic ship. Go to hell you zanu pf idiots …. viva freedom Zimbabwe viva