“In a time of universal deceit, to tell the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~ George Orwell
Although I might be wrong, I suspect Lumumba Gerald Acie William Mutamanje thought he was doing exactly what Orwell suggested when he started the 1635 Generation Consensus movement and then carpet bombed social media with his series of #DigDeeper videos. Who better to tell the millions of disaffected, disenfranchised and frustrated Zimbabweans about the rot in the country and the ruling ZANU PF than one of their own? A young man of questionable noble repute, chiselled abs and a twang forged and finessed on the streets of Epworth (allegedly). This guy is it! People must’ve thought (at least initially). He is the super hero that Zimbabwe needs. Smart, strong, bold and willing to take on a liberation party that seems preoccupied with ring fencing the wealth of an entire nation within the four walls of its headquarters at the expense of its citizens.
The only problem is he is not that super hero. He is just another crony from ZANU PF’s politics of corruption and patronage who has found himself off the gravy train and decided it was time to cry wolf. We must give him credit though. With the exception of the weird background music, the working class hero ‘optics’ were well thought out and for the most part, on point. If I was not such a cynic I am pretty sure I’d be a Lumumba-ite by now.
Once again, I could be spectacularly wrong but I am of the strong view that the increasingly ridiculous and dire circumstances in Zimbabwe, be they political, economic or social, have installed a bullcrap detector in the minds of many Zimbabweans. That is the simple reason why people saw through Lumumba’s ruse. It simply was not genuine in the eyes of those he sought to convince otherwise. Being a cog in the same corrupt apparatus that presided over the destruction of our economy meant he had no real credibility when speaking out against corruption within ZANU PF.
I am not the first nor will I be the last Zimbabwean to write about my country’s woes. It goes without saying that the quality of life for the majority of people who are not in the country’s coterie of self serving kleptomaniacs is deplorable if not downright depressing. Lumumba’s attempt to pull wool over the eyes of Zimbabweas was not only an insult to our collective intelligence but emblematic of the ruling elite’s dissonance with the genuine disaffection for their policies and continued mismanagement of what is still ostensibly a promising African nation.
Ordinarily, this is the part where one would start extolling the virtues of peace loving Zimbabweans and our ingenious resourcefulness in the face of unimaginable, relentless, unmitigated adversity and of course, western-imposed sanctions. The time for that narrative has long since passed. Why do I say this? Because there are BILLIONS OF AMERICAN reasons in missing diamond revenue that demand an urgent and withering self assessment of our civic duty to hold those who lead us accountable. Only in Zimbabwe can a government announce that 15 billion dollars in diamond revenue disappeared from its coffers without fear of being asked to account for it.
Do we march to parliament and sign a petition expressing our unhappiness? Do we demand that our civil liberties as citizens be respected and ask that this petition be handed over to the first citizen? Our 36 years of so far so good suggest that this is not a good idea. Depending on who you believe the last guy who tried that is either dead, hanging out with some fair maidens in Botswana or kicking it in the Caribbean with Tupac. Depending again on who you believe, our government either had everything or nothing at all to do with his disappearance. As Ottilia Maunganidze said to me, “this is the problem with a country built on gossip.” Nonetheless, any combination of the alternatives mentioned above could turn out to be true and we might find that Itayi Dzamara was studying neurosurgery in Poland. So if the Dzamara way is not advisable, what then for Zimbabweans?
Enter Pastor Evan Mawarire and the #ThisFlag campaign. From the onset I must state that I do not know Mawarire. By all accounts he seems like many Zimbabweans fed up with the state of affairs in the country of his birth. Like Lumumba, he also posted some videos that have gone viral on social media (minus the horrible gladiator-type background music). Unlike Lumumba, however, his videos do not come across as contrived but look to be expressing concerns and grievances that come from what seems like a genuine frustration and hopelessness. A sentiment that I am sure is shared by many Zimbabweans. His videos, dare I say, are not inane attempts to garner public support in factional fights within a party that has long since forgotten its obligations to its citizens, but real feelings that have struck a chord in the hearts and minds of many Zimbabweans, not only at home, but the world over. Mawarire has gone to great lengths to state that he is not a politician nor is the movement a political one and I am inclined to agree with him because #ThisFlag indeed belongs to all of us. Brown, pink, yellow, dark brown and red.
The campaign resonates with me because I have always felt that if Zimbabwe is to truly move forward and rediscover her soul (if ever she had one), there is a pressing need to move beyond a body politic that is more concerned with creating unnecessary binaries in its citizenry as opposed to uniting them in order to build a better tomorrow. One where disagreement with or criticism of the government does not mean the people are enemies of the state, but active citizens who are concerned with the effective governance of their country. One where exercising one’s civic duty to question the status quo is not interpreted as unlawful civil disobedience. I wrote as much in an earlier piece. Mawarire’s videos are a breath of fresh air because they show that something is stirring in the collective consciousness of Zimbabweans both at home and abroad.
That something stirring is that there is a common Zimbabweanness that goes beyond our political leanings.
We all aspire to be prosperous.
We all desire to be able to put food on the table and build a better future for our children.
We seek to live in a peaceful country where the true value of freedom for which many sacrificed their lives is expressed through a government that respects and upholds the civil liberties of its people.
In previous generations, these were ideals that some actually died for.
“Enough is enough…. we don’t want those bond things, those bond notes. You need to deal with a failed indigenisation policy that only ever worked for you…You are used to politicians coming against you but this time it is the citizens coming against you…When injustice becomes the order of the day, resistance becomes the norm.”
Predictably, uSkhwicamfundo Jonathan Moyo has come out and questioned the motives behind the campaign and those he believes are its architects. I use the word predictably because his actions are again symptomatic of a government that is not in step with the everyday realities of the people it purports to govern. I am mindful of the dangers of taking cyber opinions from armchair internet activists as popular grass roots opinion. However, I have a feeling that history will judge the learned professor and anyone else who has sought to discredit this initiative by genuinely disgruntled Zimbabwean citizens. While uSkhwicamfundo Welshman Ncube’s MDC showed us that popularity on twitter does not a presidential frontrunner make, it would be folly to dismiss the #ThisFlag campaign as something akin to the latest Baba Tensen video.
There is a very apposite ChiShona proverb for a situation such as this one:
“Kamoto kamberevere kakapisa matanda mberi”