Zimbabweans find voice against Mugabe

FROM church leaders, political activists to individuals, Zimbabweans seem to have found courage to confront their government, after almost four decades of sheepish moaning under President Robert Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule.

Source: Zimbabweans find voice against Mugabe – NewsDay Zimbabwe June 16, 2016

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

It would have been easier for citizens to recoil into their usual shells and accept things as they are after journalist-cum-democracy activist Itai Dzamara disappeared without trace after months of agitating against Mugabe and calling on the 92-year old leader to resign.

But Dzamara’s disappearance, reportedly at the hands of State security agents, seems to have galvanised even more to speak out against the nonagenarian’s regime.

Dzamara’s younger brother, Patson, has taken up the mantle and is now part of the Occupy Africa Unity Square group that was formed by his missing sibling. Some youth groups have joined in and the activism has since spread to the country’s second city, Bulawayo.

Hitherto, little-known cleric, Evan Mawarire shook the country with a campaign known as #ThisFlag, reportedly inspired by his failure to raise school fees for his children.

Mawarire told Mugabe in a video that went viral, “We are tired”, and despite receiving death threats, he has continued with the campaign.

Kadoma businessman, Edison Matombo and many others, have adopted the country’s flag as the centrepiece of their defiance to Mugabe’s oppressive and failed rule.

While in the past, police have always picked up sole protesters or anyone who dared challenge the veteran ruler, it has become increasingly difficult, as numbers are swelling.

Even Mugabe’s former shock troops — the war veterans — seem to have broken ranks and have now challenged him publicly.

“Mugabe piggy-backed onto our bus. The Patriotic Front was created by Zanla and Zipra (the armed wings of the nationalist movements Zanu and Zapu). If Mugabe wants us out of Zanu PF, he should drop the PF part because it is ours. It gives us the right to challenge the direction the party is taking the country,” a former freedom fighter said.

War veterans have responded to Mugabe’s claims that they have no right to pick his successor by telling the Zanu PF leader “we are stockholders, not stakeholders. We are going nowhere”.

Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme said Zimbabweans have been pushed into a corner and have been left with little option.

“People have been pushed into a corner and are bound to react. Naturally, people are beginning to say enough is enough through action,” he said.

“Citizens have also been empowered over the years to demand accountability and respect for rights. Civic society organisations have played a good role here and what’s happening now is the manifestation of the impact of that work. I see these active calls for change increasing until government acts or changes.”

Another analyst, Ricky Mukonza, said Zimbabweans had realised they could not rely on the false hope that freedom would naturally come someday.

“A majority of Zimbabweans have lived in the hope that freedom could come without them demanding it, but there seems to be a realisation that unless Zanu PF is challenged, it is prepared to use any means to stay in power, even at the expense of the citizens’ welfare,” he said.

“While it has taken long for Zimbabweans to gather courage to challenge the status quo that is not promoting their interests, it is a welcome development in a democratic dispensation.”

Another group, going by the name #Tajamuka (we have rebelled), addressed growing cash queues in Harare last week, openly accusing Mugabe of running down the economy and pillaging national resources.

The group’s leaders, among them former MDC-T youth secretary-general, Promise Mkwananzi, demanded Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya and Mugabe address the cash crisis.

Some members of the Occupy Africa Unity Square movement are languishing in State prisons after failing to raise the exorbitant $1 000 bail following their arrest last week. Yet another group, #Asijiki (we will not back down), is making noise, giving the government sleepless nights.

Such audacity was unheard of in the last few years.

Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the fall of Ian Smith’s regime in 1980, has used all manner of tactics — allegedly including foul means — to cling to power even in the face of a devastating decade-and-a-half-long economic, political and social meltdown.

Once a revered nationalist leader, Mugabe has presided over the demise of a once-thriving economy that was at one time described by former Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere as “the jewel of Africa”.

From disappearances, suspected murders, to electoral fraud allegations, Mugabe has entrenched his rule and used stringent laws to stop criticism of his government.

Since the tail end of the last millennium, when a credible opposition to his rule emerged, Mugabe signed into law legislation that makes it criminal for citizens to criticise him or poke fun at him. Many have been hauled before the courts for “undermining the authority” of the President.

Yet at the height of the struggle for independence, enigmatic late national hero, Eddison Zvobgo, when asked what safeguards the nationalist leaders had put in place to guard against the creation of a society or government akin to the Rhodesian regime, responded in typical fashion: “We do not want to create a socio-legal order in the country, in which people are petrified; in which people go to bed having barricaded their doors and their windows for fear that someone from the Special Branch of the police will break into their house.

“This is what we have been fighting against. Every one of us has been in jail for 10 or 14 years, I, myself, nine years without trial. Every one of us has had to live scared of the police. How on earth could we create a society that is exactly like that? We do not want it. We are fed up of it and this is why we are in this revolution for as long as is necessary to abolish this.”

Before he was forced into a unity pact with Mugabe following a military-led violent crackdown, now infamously referred to as Gukurahundi, in which over 20 000 civilians lost their lives under the pretext of hunting down a handful of armed dissidents, the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo told mourners at the burial of another war commander, Lookout Masuku: “You cannot build a country by firing people’s homes. No country can live by slogans, pasi (down with) this and pasi that. When you are ruling, you should never say pasi to anyone. If there is something wrong with someone, you must try to uplift him, not oppress him.”

In his book The Story of My Life, Nkomo said: “I have told of the triumph of that struggle, and then of how the new African government adopted as its own the repressive techniques of its illegitimate predecessor. The hardest lesson in my life has come late in my life. It is that a nation can obtain freedom without its people becoming free.”

Mugabe turned around and described Nkomo as a “cobra and father of dissidents”, whose head needed to be crushed
Yet another struggle luminary, Josiah Tongogara should be turning in his grave.

Tongogara, Zanla’s inimitable wartime commander, said of the kind of society he wanted to see: “Some of us are fighting to see that this oppressive system is crushed. I do not care whether I will be part of the top echelons of government. I do not care. I am dying to see change. I would like to see the young people, black and white, enjoying together in a new Zimbabwe. The whites inside Zimbabwe must understand what we are fighting for.”

That he said before he was killed in an accident just months before independence.

COMMENTS

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    Harper 6 years ago

    Tongogara also said “My army will support whoever wins the election” thus signing his own death warrant.