Court-backed protests turned violent in Zimbabwe‘s capital city, Harare, where police resorted to brutality to pacify opposition supporters.
On Friday, 26 August 2016, many Zimbabweans took to the streets of Harare to rally for electoral reform before the upcoming 2018 elections as police retaliated with tear gas and water canons. The rally was organized by 18 opposition parties, which include the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the biggest opposing party led by Morgan Tsvangirai, and the new Zimbabwe People First, formed this year by former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
Recent protests in Zimbabwe
In May, Baptist Pastor Evan Mawarire started the #ThisFlag movement after posting a video of himself expressing his frustrations towards the country with the national flag around his neck. He referred to the flag, not as a symbol of pride but rather one which nags a desire to be from another country.
The video had been viewed tens of thousands of times and used as a platform upon which other citizens expressed their views of the nation’s government ruled by the political party Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), led by President Robert Mugabe. As a result of the popularity and solidarity brought about by #ThisFlag, it then prompted five days of digital activism using the hashtag, which saw itself extended to 25 days by popular demand.
The following month, support grew to the point where Mawarire proposed a one-day national shutdown, urging citizens to stay at home as a response to the grave economic difficulties the country is facing, corrupt government officials and plans to introduce local bank notes. Civil servants such as doctors, nurses and teachers were also striking, frustrated with delayed salaries from the government.
Struggles in Zimbabwe
The once African powerhouse of a nation has seen its golden rays, which used to beam as a beacon of African greatness in the 1980’s, dim over the past three decades. The nationalization of all farmland in the early 2000’s that was taken from the original African owners by white colonialists led to a decline in production over time.
Not because Zimbabweans should not have fought for what was rightfully theirs, but because there was a failure to cultivate the agricultural knowledge among those who occupied it to secure that production be maintained.
The nation suffered from hyperinflation rates; as a result, in 2009, the local currency the Zimbabwe Dollar had completely lost its value to the point where it had to be replaced by the US Dollar and the South African Rand (ZAR) for trade and commerce reasons.
Such a move demonstrated the degree to which the Zimbabwean economy had plummeted costing thousands their jobs due to high unemployment rates that continue to soar today. These are some of the reasons why many Zimbabweans have lost faith in their government.
In 2013, the country held elections in which President Robert Mugabe participated and was reelected, a result that opposition supporters feel was due to rigging. Food shortages, failing production, scarce employment opportunities, are just some of the reasons why Zimbabweans are ready for a change.
Friday’s rally was a call for free and fair elections in the country so that 92-year-old President Mugabe’s more than three-decade rule will finally come to an end, paving the way for a new leader who will revive the country’s economy and catapult Zimbabwe back into greatness. Evan Mawarire even called on international support, urging the United Nations to oversee the country’s 2018 elections.
The escalating challenges Zimbabwe has been facing over the decades have severely impacted the country, seeing the Zimbabwe-South Africa border packed with many who are fleeing their country to make a living in the neighboring Southern African country.
Furthermore, the difficulties have made the country a target for media scrutiny, especially by Western media houses. The latter have been against President Robert Mugabe ever since the country gained its freedom from British colonial rule.
It is an unfortunate occurrence in many previously colonized countries on the African continent and Latin America that the brave soldiers of freedom who had once fought so hard for the liberation of their people and land, become part of the forces that lead to the country’s demise.
The dirty power game that is politics has too often seduced the loyal minds of its various supporters only to be disappointed by unrealised promises. Using tactics based on persuasion and conviction to forward a particular ideology that proves to be effective for the country’s growth only in speeches rather than reality.
When will our leaders rise for the nation rather than for their own pockets? When will the thirst for power be surmounted for the hunger for the freedom, integrity, and prosperity of the nation, of the continent? May Africa arrive at a point where our strength and solidarity is so intense, not even the propaganda constantly portrayed in the media bring us down.