Piecemeal protests will never force real change in Zimbabwe

The recent wave of peaceful protests and shutdowns that have rocked Zimbabwe, due to an ever increasing unbearable economic and political situation brought about by the ZANU PF government, have been very commendable, but will yield nothing much unless the suffering people are prepared to go all the way.

Source: Piecemeal protests will never force real change in Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwean 27.07.2016

As much as a day or two of peaceful street protests or shutdowns may induce an uncomfortable moment or so for the regime – if truth be told, nothing much beyond that will ever be achieved.

The suffering people of Zimbabwe need to be prepared to give it all – to sacrifice everything they have got – if ever the dream of a better Zimbabwe is ever to see the light of day.

Half-baked protests and shutdowns will not do it – there is need for a deliberate decision amongst all genuinely suffering people who have had enough of this regime’s shenanigans to engage in a protracted peaceful struggle.

Zimbabweans have to sacrifice all they have, for any meaningful change to come to this great nation.

This means engaging in peaceful street protests and shutdowns that are continuous for weeks and months.

In any battle, one does not give his or her opponent a breather, so that they may recover and re-strategize, then engage in a fresh battle – that will yield nothing.

It is very clear that the peaceful protests and shutdown witnessed in July had a shocking effect on the ZANU PF regime – but nothing much else –  and since then, they have had enough time to recover,  and soon it will be back to business as usual – so why did the people bother engaging in those protests in the first place?

In fact, the regime is been given enough time to strategize on how to more effectively counter and neutralise any future protests and shutdowns.

We need to come to a place where we have to decide between genuinely effective means of forcing change in Zimbabwe – or superficial action that just grabs an international headline or two.

As you read this, how many people around the world do you think still remember that there was a shutdown in Zimbabwe in July?

Except for Zimbabweans in the diaspora – virtually ZERO!

The world is back to business, and focussing on other pressing issues.

Yet, for this struggle to be effective, there is a strong need for the international community’s pressure to aid our own efforts.

We can not be lukewarm in this struggle – by, for instance, fearing to lose our jobs, whilst at the same time expecting to engage in any meaningful action that will bring about real change.

If we are to decide to shutdown the country, then that means, being prepared even to be dismissed from work, as we would have stayed at home for as long as it takes to bring about the desired change – be it weeks or months.

The same goes for the majority of us who are in the informal sector – there is need to put down everything for a protracted length of time.

That is the only way real impact will be felt by the regime, thereby effecting real change – be it forcing the government to seriously address the plight of the suffering people, or for them to voluntarily step down – as we are not calling for any illegal regime change.

It is understandable that we have mouths to feed – least of all, our own – but in a struggle in which Zimbabweans currently find themselves in, the sacrifices I mentioned are the way forward.

Lest we forget, we are dealing with a very arrogant and stubborn regime that will not be easily cowered.

Not that they needed cowering in the first place, if this was truly a democratic government – as the plight of the people it purports to lead should have, naturally, been its first priority.

The example of how the Ian Smith Rhodesia regime was handled should proffer invaluable lessons for us.

The Rhodesia regime was just as arrogant and stubborn as the ZANU PF one – as such, all the piecemeal demonstrations and protests of the 1950 and 1960s yielded virtually nothing, except ruffling a few feathers here and there, and one or two meaningless concessions.

I am sure one of the reasons such piecemeal action was taken was that people did not want to lose their jobs and lose their incomes, as they also had mouths to feed – but that understandable attitude did not help their cause.

However, when the nationalists finally decided to take genuinely effective action, there was need for huge sacrifices.

People left their jobs – some of whom were pursuing relatively lucrative careers in the diaspora – to join the struggle, others dropped out of universities and schools, whilst others left their loved ones – all in an effort to bring about meaningful change.

All of these people – it should be said – willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice of dying for their country.

Although, today, we do not need to cross any borders to join any armed struggle, we nevertheless, have an equally important peaceful struggle on our hands, which demands the same sacrificing attitude.

It is, admittedly, not an easy decision to make – and the temptation of continuing with these half-baked protests and shutdowns, will obviously be uppermost.

It is easier to believe that the intermittent protests – one or two this month, another one next month, and so forth – will do the trick.

However, rest assured – as with when the Biblical Moses originally approached Pharaoh to deliver God’s demand to set His people free – the only response this regime will give is to even be more obstinate and ruthless.

Already we have all seen their response – increased brutality, crackdown, and threats of even more severe reprisals.

Not that there will not be any severe fightback by the regime, in the event of a protracted peaceful struggle, but at least, it would be a struggle we can hope to win – just as during the protracted liberation struggle, in spite of increased brutality by the Smith regime, the people eventually won.

However, with piecemeal protests, all we will ever get is brutality without any hope of ever achieving anything.

Let every street in every city and town simultaneously resonate with the chants and demands of the people of Zimbabwe for weeks or even months.

All relevant stakeholders – political parties, workers’ representatives, civil organisations, churches, students’ bodies,  and all other influential opinion leaders – should sit down together and come up with a strategy on how to organise, execute, and achieve this protracted peaceful struggle.

Admittedly, the economy will also be negatively affected, but then what is the point of a shutdown if the economy is not to be affected?

Besides, when these economists give us figures on how much the country lost due to a day’s shutdown, we also need to know how much the country has been making whilst we were all going about our business – and where all that money has been going, because it surely has not been trickling down to the suffering masses.

In fact, the country – and the people themselves – have everything to gain from such a sacrifice, as it is an investment into a brighter and prosperous tomorrow.

Now is the time for all the suffering people of Zimbabwe to make those bold decisions, as nothing good comes easily.

If we earnestly want a better tomorrow, a better life for our children – a life that we all desire and deserve – then we have to make the sacrifices today.

If we just continue business as usual – with our piecemeal protests, most of which, I dare say, will be complete flops – hoping for the best, then we did not learn anything from the lessons of 2007 to 2009.

Needless to say, this time it will be worse, as there are even less companies operational today – to buttress the situation – than in those years.

Our future is firmly in our hands, and it is up to us whether to have the bright future that we want or not.

No one will come from somewhere to do it for us – it is now or never.

It is either we boldly choose to make the tough decisions for our own good, or we just resign ourselves to a life of pittance – as things are going, the country is predicated to become a failed state soon.

No matter how much we wish it – and there are plenty of ‘wishing stars’ flying about during the night – the situation in Zimbabwe will never be resolved until we, the suffering people of Zimbabwe, decide to sacrifice all for a better tomorrow.

Waiting for change to come in 2018 is all well and good, but will we have a country to talk about by then?

Additionally, the protracted peaceful protests we need today, are also meant to demand for genuine electoral reforms, such that, come 2018, there will be truly free and fair elections.

With the current electoral system, there will be no hope for any change of government in the 2018 elections, and as such, today is the time to force through those necessary reforms.

Therefore, it is important for the people of Zimbabwe to put unrelenting pressure today for the government to effect economic, political, and electoral reforms, whilst there is still time.

Let us unite, as the suffering people of Zimbabwe, as our destiny beckons, but only a protracted peaceful struggle can guarantee that the dreams of a better life, that our fathers and mothers fought for in the 1970s – but were perverted by ZANU PF – can finally be realised in our generation.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist and commentator, writer, and journalist. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes any feedback. Please feel free to WhatsApp/call: +263782283975, or email: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.com. Follow on Twitter: @Tendai_Mbofana