HARARE’s Africa Unity Square has of late become a hive of activity with opposition-linked activists congregating at the venue since June 1 to protest against the government.
The so-called #16DayOccupation (June 1-16, 2016) was organised by the little known Zimbabwe Activist Alliance led by Lynette Tendai Mudehwe and involves a coterie of other groups and activists with a history of opposing the government. The protesters have invited Patson Dzamara, brother to Itai, the lone activist who last year came up with the failed “Occupy Africa Unity Square” where protesters staged sit-ins at the public square.
Itai later “disappeared” and has become a rallying point around which opposition parties like the MDC-T and other anti-government elements have coalesced to rouse public anger and possibly ignite mass protests. Last week, Patson addressed a press conference in Harare where he released a photograph he purported to be that of his brother in captivity.
The grainy picture showed a laptop with an image of a heavily bandaged man seated at the bottom of a staircase with a white man, whose face is hidden from the camera, holding the laptop. Patson claimed his brother was abducted by the military intelligence, a claim which the Zimbabwe National Army has since dismissed.
The release of the image was hyped up in the private media and predictably elicited strong responses from the Western embassies whose disdain for the ruling Zanu-PF party and President Robert Mugabe is an open secret. There has been an increase in anti-government activism on social media of late.
A new movement fronted by Pastor Evans Mawarire dubbed #ThisFlag has gained currency both in Zimbabwe and in the diaspora community and is active mainly on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It is a forum where Zimbabweans purportedly speak candidly on issues affecting their daily lives from cash shortages to unemployment.
In recent weeks, Zimbabwe has been gripped by cash shortages and with authorities seized with trying to address the problem, alarmist stories have been spreading through social media, the most bizarre one being a claim that a son to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development had tried to spirit $7 million in cash out of the country.
There were also false claims that Zimbabwean soldiers had been killed in an ambush by Renamo bandits in Mozambique. Amid all this confusion, youthful politicians who broke ranks with Zanu-PF are preparing the ground to launch opposition parties. Temba Mliswa, the former Zanu-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman has formed the Youth Advocacy for Reform and Democracy (YARD), a pressure group he seeks to transform into a political party.
He has been crisscrossing the country ostensibly to create structures but the million dollar question is: who is funding him? Acie Lumumba, a former Zanu-PF parliamentary candidate in Harare, is active on social media through his #digdeeper movement where he calls on Zimbabweans to question government policies. His overnight metamorphosis from a staunch supporter of the revolutionary party to a rabid critic is telling. The rise of youthful politicians opposed to the government and the use of social media as a tool for change is nothing new.
The Arab Spring wave of demonstrations began in Tunisia in 2010 with the self-immolation of a vendor Mohamed Bouzizi culminating in the overthrow of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. It spread to Egypt and other countries in the Arab world at a frenetic pace and similarities between events in that region and the strange happenings in Zimbabwe at the moment are so stark they need to be interrogated.
The motley crew of protesters at Africa Unity Square, while clearly singing for their supper and being willing recipients of donor trinkets, could be unaware of the bigger picture. The Western world is not done with Zimbabwe and the massive defeat of the MDC by Zanu-PF in the 2013 general elections appears to have jolted the regime change brigade to reconsider their tactics. The current challenges with cash shortages are a powder keg waiting to be ignited and authorities should be vigilant and wary of the machinations of Zimbabwe’s erstwhile enemies.
It is not a coincidence that the Africa Unity Square protesters have been getting encouragement — both morally and financially — from Western envoys, one of whom actually visited them. French Ambassador to Zimbabwe Laurent Delahousse is reported to have made a solidarity call on the group on Monday and we wonder if this might not be construed as interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.
In light of these threats to the stability and existence of the nation, we feel our security apparatus should remain alert and thwart any attempts to throw the country into chaos. The anarchy in the Arab countries in the aftermath of the so called “Spring” revolution is not something Zimbabwe needs at the moment.