Protests by their very nature have their ups and downs. It is a very difficult exercise, to sustain protests over a long period of time. However, that said, I think the failure to understand our economy’s new realities was at the heart of why this last stay away was “less successful”.
Under Zanu PF’s mismanagement, industries have closed and continue to do so. A walk around Zimbabwe’s industrial areas clarifies this picture. In city centres across the country, streets are packed, full of vendors trying to eke a living. Every day is a struggle. A hassle to feed the family. With no savings to rely on, demonstrations are just but a heavy burden on the already struggling masses.
As if that was not enough, last year’s Supreme Court, anti-labour ruling, made firing employees even easier. With no guaranteed employment for workers, going on strikes and demonstrations is quite a risky business. Naturally out of self-preservation, workers are reluctant to engage in non-ending strikes and demonstrations. Unozosara kudzokera kubasa chitupa chava pahwindo ukawedzera matambudziko gumi pazana (You will end up getting fired, adding more problems to your already existing ones).
On top of these two main factors, you then have sceptics sowing seeds of self-doubt in the masses asking mundane questions. What did the stay-away/demonstration achieve? What has changed after your protest? These people did not start today though. Yesterday they spoke in hushed tones. Today they are shouting on top of their voices. Sometimes hiding behind pseudo intellectual questions. Brazenly challenging people to provide #ThisFlag’s ideology and the way forward after stay-aways/demonstrations. Their questions have managed to contaminate people’s hopes and dilute their high spirit. People are beginning to wonder if their actions are worth the risk they are taking.
What is the pastor’s ideology?
Thus it is imperative that we try and answer these questions. For the benefit of those who were about to lose hope and give up. The question of #ThisFlag’s ideology is a non-question, #ThisFlag is a citizen’s movement not a political movement. It’s a citizen’s movement, whereby people are simply airing their concerns about the economy and other affairs of the state. Including corruption and incompetence in government among other issues. Surely people do not need to have an ideology for them to speak to these ills. It is their right as citizens to express their displeasure at their government’s actions or inaction. In fact, intellectuals have the moral responsibility of analysing actions vis-à-vis their causes and motives not this people bashing we see online.
Then what after the stay-away/demonstration?
Now this is a very interesting question. I am more than convinced that if it had not been asked with so much cynicism, it would have sparked a necessary debate. In attempting to answer this question, I hope to arouse some discussion around this difficult question. I am sure you will agree with me that this is a conversation we must have among other conversations if we are to succeed in removing Mugabe.
The primary objective of protesting is to communicate to the authorities, that the people do not want a certain policy, government action or inaction. Protests as a means of such communication can only work when the government in question has a conscience and is willing to listen to its people. The one we have in Zimbabwe is well known for its non-listening policy towards its own citizens. It has neither the capacity nor the interest to address our concerns.
So why keep talking to someone who is not willing to listen? Through our protests we are no longer talking to the government, we are talking to one another as fellow citizens. Saying to each other enough is enough. In the process re-energising the support base that was otherwise growing weary of the ever promised but never coming change.
When we protest we are crying out to our African brothers and sisters, telling them that things are not okay in Zimbabwe. We are speaking to the Pan Africans that African lives matter and they do not feed on empty rhetoric. By doing so we are putting pressure on the dictator who flies around pretending everything is okay back home.
When we are protesting we are screaming to the international community. Asking them to keep their eyes on Zimbabwe. Thus making it much easier to demand electoral reforms. Much more importantly when momentum of protest is on the ground, it is much easier to organise people to vote in their numbers and defend the vote afterwards if necessary.
However, these protests must be taken to the rest of the country. Since demonstrations and stay-aways are our main tools to speaking to one another and the international community at large they must have wide spread appeal and support in order to be heard. People in the rural areas need to be engaged. But in a different kind of conversation since we cannot guarantee their safety. We need to send flyers with pictures of their Zanu PF leaders’s houses. Tell a story of affluence in the midst of poverty. Show that their leaders’ houses cost more than schools and clinics put together in their home districts. Prove to them beyond any doubt that their leaders do not care for them.
Sometimes our talk and our cries are not loud enough but that doesn’t make them failures. It means we have to talk louder and at times, scream on top of our lungs if we must. Thomas Edison says in his famous statement, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. We can only fail when we stop trying.
How do we make the stay-away/demonstrations more successful?
In my last article which can be found here. I state that we must accept nonviolence only if it is a superior tactic but not because of its moral soundness. Thus we should never be apologetic for adopting the right tactics even if they maybe too radical and morally unsound for some other people’s liking. Since people are forced to go to work either because they are self-employed or because they are afraid to lose their jobs they have to be coerced not go to work.
How do you coerce people not to go to work? You disrupt the transport system either by blocking strategic routes to and from the cities with boulders or by spreading threats through flyers to commuter omnibus drivers that if they defy the stay-away their commuter omnibuses risk being burnt. People must be willing to carry out these threats if the commuter omnibus drivers defy the threat. Nothing is as damaging as an empty threat.
However as Nietzsche says “the mother of excess is not joy but joylessness”. We have to be creative and vary the nature of our protests. Many people disparaged the pastor for calling people to sing Ishe komborera Africa during the Highlanders versus Dynamos match at Barbourfields stadium. But it is such creativity we need if we are to sustain our protests. Imagine the whole stadium waving Zimbabwe’s flag. Putting aside our football rivalry and putting our country first. Enjoy our football game and protesting at the same time. We need to be flexible and above all proactive because the regime will obviously react to our actions.
Mugabe can take as many pain killers as he wants but a loose tooth can not rest until it is pulled out. The state might be able to counter the citizen’s protest today and maybe tomorrow but as long as the citizens’ concerns are not addressed it is just a matter of time.
Let’s be relentless and not tire. At times we can be less successful but still we can complete this change together. A new Zimbabwe is possible in Mugabe’s lifetime.