Source: Zvorwadza: A giant tearing tyranny apart – The Standard August 14, 2016
Stern Zvorwadza, among a host of other brave activists, has become the face of a growing movement shaking President Robert Mugabe’s octopus-like grip on power and it is not by coincidence.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Zvorwadza, the leader of the National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe (Navuz) says he became an activist at the age of 11.
“I started activism in the early 1980s when I was about 11 years old when my brother Paddington Zvorwadza was MP for Rushinga, Mt Darwin,” he says.
“At that time, I was introduced into governance issues at that tender age and ever since that time, I wanted to work for the nation.”
Zvorwadza said he is a full-time vendor who sells paraffin.
He decided to rise up against Mugabe in response to law enforcers who often raid his business premises, seizing his products and condemning him to poverty.
Zorwadza said he would not be deterred by the police’s heavy-handed tactics, which include torture and arbitrary arrests.
He said Zanu PF’s culture of violence had also cowed many Zimbabweans who now feared expressing their views openly.
“When we started activism at that young age, there was a lot of violence, especially by the youths,” Zorwadza said.
“We were mainly taught to be violent against anyone who opposed what we were doing and that form of behaviour could be traced to the fact that Zanu PF never de-militarised after the war.
“They have believed at every stage that violence should be a mode of cowing people who don’t believe in what you do,” he said, adding that over the years people were not given an opportunity to tackle their grievances in a civil manner.
Zvorwadza said as long as protests were peaceful, many people were bound to participate and send an emphatic message to the authorities.
As a way of promoting peaceful protests, the lanky activist said he had started the #ThisPeaceFlower campaign, which he said was aimed at ensuring that people value the importance of love and peace.
Last week, Zvorwadza led several people, including children, in a march demanding the return of missing journalist-cum-human rights activist Itai Dzamara at the Africa Unity Square in Harare.
The children handed over flowers and a cake to the police, a gesture they said symbolised their desire to see a civil relationship between the citizens and law enforcers.
Zorwadza said he would continue standing up for people’s rights as he felt the status quo could not go unchallenged.
“I am not doing it for myself,” Zvorwadza said.
“I am part of the failures of this nation because at 47, where was I for all these years when we kept this man who became Prime Minister at 56 when I was 11?
“So I looked at it and said I didn’t do enough to help the youths to try and fix the problems we co-created.
“At this point in time, I have made a decision that I will not stand by and let this unjust system continue surviving.
“I will make sure that I participate until this unjust oppressive system is brought down.”
The Navuz leader said any attempts on his life or forced disappearance for any of the protestors would cause chaos in the country.
He said Dzamara’s spirit was rising, giving people the courage and strength to take Mugabe and his government head-on.
Zvorwadza said he held no grudge against the police who routinely arrested him for merely exercising his rights.
“I respect the ZRP for being a police service to the nation, but I also condemn those who are bent on perpetrating violence against citizens for no reason,” he said.
“We will continue to teach them how to love and maintain peace and #ThisPeaceFlower campaign is targeted at the police, CIO [Central Intelligence Organisation] and the army
which is slowly but surely being introduced to fight the citizens.”
Zvorwadza said protestors combined with civic organisations and political parties had the capacity to remove the government, even within three hours.
“Civic society, citizens and political parties have the capacity and can unseat the government peacefully, even in three hours if they so wish to do it as a unit, but the problem lies with some people who are pulling on the sideways, especially politicians,” he said.
Zvorwadza blamed some opposition parties that have not joined others in fighting the repressive government for the slow pace of change.
“Some politicians are bent on protecting their power bank rather than working on programmes to ensure that citizens are free,” he said.
“They are also not working towards ensuring that citizens move away from poverty; they are not working towards freeing citizens from this oppressive regime.”
He said people in Zimbabwe should leave the culture of hero-worshiping leaders as it created demi-gods and dictators.
Zvorwadza said his only ambition was to be formally employed in a new Zimbabwe. He rose to prominence in June when he led protesters that stormed Rainbow Towers in June to register their anger over Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s two-year stay at the hotel.
He was brutally assaulted by the police before he was arrested and has been arraigned before the courts over his protests.