#This Flag Movement: Modernity versus Traditionalism in Zimbabwe

Recently in Zimbabwe, a young pastor named Evan Mawarire started a social media movement popularly known as #This Flag.


The pastor began by posting a series of videos on social media. The videos exhibited the pastor bemoaning various socio-political and economic ills currently affecting Zimbabweans at large.


According to reports, Pastor Evan Mawarire started posting these videos online in April 2016, after struggling to pay his children’s school fees on time.


His videos are usually expressions of frustration with what he perceives to be systemic corruption in the Zimbabwean government, injustice and widespread poverty in Zimbabwe.


A few months after his first post, Evan Mawarire’s #This Flag movement has evolved into a social media movement which is followed by tens of thousands of people in Zimbabwe and outside.


Now in early July, Pastor Mawarire’s movement went a step further than social media posts, and called for a nationwide “stay away” protest.


In other words, Pastor Evan called for all productive Zimbabweans across sectors to stay at home, and not report for work as a means of expressing dissatisfaction at the country’s current socio-economic and political circumstances.


The set date for the “stay away” was 6 July, and according to reports, most urban centers across the country took note of that protest call and did not report for work.


Now, what’s interesting about the July 6 protest is that both business and labour participated , despite their traditionally contradictory marketplace perspectives.


Furthermore, it’s notable that the calls for the July 6 “stay away” were conceded by all urban-dwelling ordinary Zimbabweans.


In fact, the 6 July “Stay away” projected an impression of shared disgruntlement among Zimbabweans despite their varying political perspectives, racial and class differences.


Even vendors did not open shop in Harare Central on July 6.


Nevertheless, it must be observed that the 6 July “stay away” protest coincided with a civil service strike organized by Zimbabwean trade unions.


It’s also worthy to note that early on 6 July violent commuter-taxi-protests erupted in Epworth, which is one of Harare’s most notorious slums.


In the midst of those Epworth taxi protests, a police officer was assaulted and the ensuing riot-police’s heavy-handed response was captured and published on social media, and those visuals went viral.


In the end, the Epworth commuter taxi demonstrations were inadvertently and mistakenly associated with the non-violent July 6 “stay away” called for by #This Flag.


Therefore, it could be argued that the fear, intrigue and anxiety inspired by the Epworth taxi-demonstrations contributed to the success of the 6 July “stay away.”


Simply put, after seeing visuals of the Epworth commuter-taxi demonstration most Harare based business owners, workers and vendors alike chose outright not to report to work on 6 July, predominantly because of fear of violence.


This point is reinforced by the fact that #This Flag’s call for a peaceful two-day “stay away” on 13 and 14 July was largely ignored by vendors, ordinary workers and business owners alike.


In fact, one local newspaper had this to say about #This Flag’s 13 and 14 July protest:




“Zimbabweans… largely ignored calls for a national stay-away by pro-democracy activists, with business open as usual despite a slow start by entrepreneurs who feared an explosion of violence.”


Now, despite that it was clear on 13 July that the calls for the “stay away” had been largely ignored, the originator of #This Flag social movement, Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested.


He was initially charged with “inciting public violence and disturbing peace” and was later charged with “subverting a constitutional government in contravention of section 22 (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.”


As widely documented, the arrest of Pastor Evan Mawarire and his subsequent appearance in court shifted the Zimbabwean public’s attention from the “stay away,” to Pastor Evan Mawarire himself.


In fact, after his arrest thousands of #This Flag supporters were mobilized via social media and physically gathered at the Harare magistrate’s court where Pastor Evan Mawarire’s matter was being heard.


According to reports, people gathered outside the court with the national flag. They sang songs and prayed outside the courthouse until the charges against Pastor Evan Mawarire were finally dropped and the pastor was released.


What ensued after his release has been widely reported and will not be discussed here.


Modernity versus Tradition

Now, from an analytical perspective, I find it curious that the young pastor was arrested in the first place.


I mean, as I mentioned earlier, it had been widely acknowledged that the July 13/14 “stay away” was unsuccessful, and that people had reported to work.


With that in mind, why, then, would anyone in authority insist that Pastor Evan be arrested despite that his call for a two-day “stay away” had been largely ignored?


If the authorities had let him alone, #This Flag would almost certainly have gradually dissipated. Yet, conversely, arresting him has brought more attention to #This Flag as a social movement and consequently, Pastor Evan is now one of the most popular people in the country.


This brings me to the issue of tradition versus modernity in social theory and the dynamics of Zimbabwean social change.


Modernity, put plainly, refers to modern societies characterized by democratic political structures, urbanization, technological progression, education, rationality and free market capitalism to name a few.


On the other hand, the traditionalist approach refers to beliefs and practices common in organizations economies or communities which are economically and technologically undeveloped and therefore fairly static within their structures and practices and tend to be predominately rural instead of urban.


Now when I analyse Pastor Evan Mawarire and #This Flag, as a social movement, all I see is people who strive for, and subscribe to modernity. These are people who want to catch up with the world and compete globally.


On the other hand, those who are denouncing Pastor Evan Mawarire and his #This Flag movement seem to lean towards traditionalism, and would prefer to remain in a state of de-industrialization, underdevelopment and stagnation. Essentially, they perceive #This Flag as contradictory to their pseudo revolutionary ideals.


It seems to me, however, that the country has reached a crossroads.


The thing is, #This Flag is a collective expression of the desire for modernity in a country that seems to be in a perpetual state of stagflation.


Yes, Evan Mawarire is the originator of #This Flag, but targeting him personally, doesn’t change the nature of the movement or the motivation behind it. The more anyone trys to silence Evan Mawarire, the louder that movement will become.


What’s needed in Zimbabwe right now is for those in authority to understand and appreciate that a significant proportion of Zimbabweans do not subscribe to the traditionalist ways of doing things anymore.


It is a fact that the majority of the population is below 40, and therefore in more cases than not, the majority of the population can empathize with pastor Evan Mawarire and the grievances that #This Flag conveys on behalf of citizens.


This is true in business, politics and social relations alike.


People want to move forward. People want to able to fulfill their potential. People want to be able to express themselves economically in their own country. I believe that is what #This Flag is about.


It’s a loud call for those in charge to embrace modernity in politics business and community alike. Zimbabwe can’t survive in a vacuum. We need to catch up with the rest of the world.


Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director




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Marital Abuse and Social Insecurity in Zimbabwe


Social Security is a concept enshrined in article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which encourages nations to actively advance the economic, social and cultural rights of their people and to promote the development and well-being of citizens.


Traditionally, the mention of social security invokes thoughts of pension funds and other financial schemes that facilitate for the provision of health, food and shelter for citizens.


However, it must be noted that the fundamental objective behind the concept of social security is the promotion of human dignity- a constitutional right.


This means that where people are socially insecure, there is no human dignity.


This is true war zones like Syria, where citizens arguably have been reduced to refugees and rebels, and where homes and livelihoods have been irrevocably destroyed.


Yet when I consider Zimbabwe, I wonder what institutions and networks we have within our society that assist in providing social security to Zimbabwean citizens.


Of course, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is the primary state-sanctioned legal entity that is tasked with providing social security for Zimbabweans.


Whether or not NSSA is currently fulfilling its role is debatable.


A secondary source of Social Security is the Zimbabwean Diaspora (The network of Zimbabwean citizens living and working outside of Zimbabwe).


The role of the Zimbabwean Diaspora (as a collective) in providing social security for families back home is undeniable and should not be ignored.


In fact, according to reports the Zimbabwean Diaspora remits about USD1.4 billion per year, which is used to provide food, healthcare and shelter (among other things) for people in Zimbabwe.


Now what’s interesting is that there are two other social institutions that should be primary sources of social security, but are perhaps not fulfilling their roles.


Theses are religious organizations (churches) and families.


The Role of the Family in Providing Social Security

Throughout Africa, the role of the nuclear and extended family with respect to provision of social security is extraordinary.


Owing to the historic influence of the cultural principle of Ubuntu/Hunhu, the family has provided secure retirement environments for the elderly, and has been a source of social protection for widows and orphans especially in the wake of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


Having said that, however, the recently ended ‘16 Days of Activism’ opened my eyes to the reality that many families in our midst are dysfunctional, and are in fact sources of social insecurity.


This is principally owing to marital abuse and the consequent inter-spousal denigration of human dignity.


During the recently ended ‘16 Days of Activism’ many accounts of emotional and physical abuse were narrated, but two were particularly dreadful to me.


Firstly, the story of a husband who contracted HIV and then infected his wife. Subsequently, he would physically and verbally abuse her and then force her to have unprotected sex with him.


Secondly, the story of a husband who refuses to give his wife any money. He doesn’t give her money for transport, clothes, toiletries or medicine.


Clearly, these women are socially insecure within the institution of marriage, which is supposed to be a primary source of social security.


Of course, there many other accounts of intra-marital and intra-familial incidents of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, all culminating in social insecurity.


Personally, I was surprised to hear of the extent of social insecurity in marriages in Zimbabwe. Between 50 and 60 percent of married and cohabiting women have experienced such abuse.


This is shocking to say the least, because practically speaking, charity should begin at home.


In other words, before we point fingers at political or business leaders for not providing social security for employees or citizens in general, we should ask ourselves if individually we make our spouses and families feel socially secure.


Put simply, we should each ask ourselves if we are actively working to uphold the human dignity of those people closest to us, particularly our spouses.


In this context, the churches (and other faith-based organizations) have a critical role to play in terms of speaking to family values given the critical role of the family in providing social security.


However, the prosperity gospel unfortunately seems to have become the principal focus of our clergy.


Now let me state categorically that I do not subscribe to the doctrine of gender egalitarianism.


However, I do believe in the principle of treating others, as I would want to be treated.


That is the principle that I believe we should all apply in our marriages.


Especially considering that our macro-economic circumstances as a nation will not change any time soon.


In fact, economists predict that 2016 will be tougher than 2015 owing to a larger budget deficit and consequently more liquidity constraints.


In this light, there is a need to focus on micro institutions like the church and the family as primary providers of social security.


In simple terms, treat people the same way you want to be treated, especially within in a marriage.


Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director



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Politics and Religion

zim-ren-3Religion is the opium of the people. At least that is what Karl Marx would like us to believe. Nonetheless, opium has a global market value that runs into hundreds of billions of dollars, and according to certain theories, it has triggered international wars such as the invasion of Afghanistan.

Yet, while western societies are generally secularizing, research reveals that here in Africa, religious practice is escalating; especially in form of Pentecostalism. This growing religiosity of Africans can arguably be attributed to the growing population and an intensifying competition for economic opportunities coupled with crisis ridden national economies. These factors collectively create contexts of social tension that are arguably alleviated by religiosity.

Social scientists contend that religion contributes positively to society in the following ways:

●religion maintains and supports the societal social order (i.e.: social norms, values, culture etc)

●religion shapes the social actions of men and women in their encounter with their social environments

●religion provides social and physical spaces that bring men and women together to participate in common activities that are understood by and are meaningful to them

●religion institutionalizes a network of social relationships

●religion is the ultimate source of cohesion and integration in society.

In fact, religion has been attributed for fuelling the work ethic and industry of the developed world.

In a classic work entitled the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the German economist Max Weber postulates that “the magical and religious forces, and the ethical ideas based upon them, have in the past always been among the most important formative influences on the conduct of life.”

He goes further, arguing that capitalism (described as the rational pursuit of profit through rational economic enterprise) was an unintended consequence of religious (particularly protestant) doctrine which stressed ‘a calling’, that is, a special way to live and function ordained by God. This ‘calling’ referred to a lifestyle that would see people working and enterprising in such a way that led to material success. The proliferation of this doctrine, according to Weber, fuelled modern Capitalism and the industrialisation of the Western world.

Simply put, Max Weber suggests that religious values are channelled into people by means of the pulpit, where they are enveloped as religious doctrine, and consequently, these values shape the social and economic behaviour of their adherents.

Now in the Zimbabwean context, recent media reports of rape and psychological manipulation under the pretext of religion are perturbing.

Remembering that the social and economic behaviours of religious adherents are influenced by religious doctrines transmitted from various pulpits, it is worrisome to consider that certain religious leaders, be they Christian preachers, traditional religious practitioners, or Vapostori are often respondents to charges of psychological manipulation, rape, child abuse and other offences of that nature.

I mean, if such a cleric has been preaching for decades, and therefore has been extensively channelling his or her profane doctrine into a congregation, then one cannot expect constructive social or economic behaviour from that group’s members.

Here is an example: If a religious leader preaches that, he or she has the power to cure HIV/AIDS and therefore, his or her adherents who suffer from this condition should abandon all conventional medication; that will become the behaviour of those adherents. Alternatively, if a religious leader or ‘prophet’ prophecies that a man’s wife is trying to poison him, then do not be surprised when that church member stops eating at home.

Furthermore, recent media reports have exposed that some eccentric ‘Christian’ pastors can even influence their church members to eat grass.

church member eats grass
Pastor Lesego Daniel, who is based in Garankuwa, north of Pretoria, told dozens of followers to eat grass because “it will bring them closer to God”.

The point is that there is a fine line between faith and fanaticism, and while calls for the monitoring of churches and their varying doctrines are welcome in the context of protecting the public from predatory pulpit pundits, the question arises: how does the government intend to monitor religious activity? Furthermore, how will the government ensure that a monitoring exercise of religious activity will not result in the covert politicisation of religion in the country?

While the constitution states that no person can be hindered from the enjoyment of his or her freedom of religion, it also states that in the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health the law in can limit the freedom of religion.

However, the danger of enacting a general law which allows for the infringement of religious freedom is that such a law could be used as a political tool, even to the detriment of sincere and law abiding believers as is the case currently in tumultuous Egypt.

In this light, in order to avoid the politicization of religious activity in the country, and to maintain the rift between the church and the state, the only reasonable way of monitoring religion would be through a statutory religious ombudsman consisting of respectable and impartial citizens and mandated with the twofold functions of protecting the public from pulpit predators, and keeping politics and state separate from issues of faith.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director



zimbabwe renaissance societyWe live in a strange world. The recent developments in Ivory Coast and Libya illuminate how misguided we, the general public, are by the pronouncements of the liberal media- the mouthpiece of global powers. If anything, we were made to believe that military interventions in Libya and Ivory Coast were necessary to protect the wishes of the masses in the respective countries and ultimately, to save lives. However, after doing a little research, this writer wonders, firstly; if the NATO powers and France in particular are genuinely interested in the well-being of Ivorian and Libyan citizens, and secondly; if peace will ever return to Libya and Ivory Coast.

It should be mentioned that Laurent Ggagbo is fortunate to have made it out of his bunker alive, and that in fact, he should have ceded power months ago-the moment the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced that it didn’t recognise him as president. However it is interesting to note that Frederic Daguillon, the spokesperson for the French forces in Abidjan announced that “there wasn’t one single French soldier at the residence of Laurent Ggagbo.” Yet, media reports mention that an aid to Ouattara said “Ggagbo had been handed over by the French to the legitimate government.”

John Hari, writing for The Independent says NATO is acting like the military wing of Amnesty International when they say that their intervention in Libya is in order to protect civilians. He writes: “Yet, since 2004 the US- with European support – has been sending unmanned robot-planes into Pakistan to illegally bomb its territory.” He goes on to say that “the US’s own former senior military advisors admit that even when the intel [intelligence] is accurate, for every one jihadi they kill, as many as fifty innocent people die.” He also writes that the war in Congo is the deadliest since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe, and that in the Congo conflict, he saw armies of drugged and mutilated children and women who had been gang-raped and shot in the vagina. Apparently, he says, more than 5 million people have been killed so far – and even though the west knows about these atrocities, there has been no NATO intervention there to date.

David Cameron did recently state that just because one cannot intervene everywhere, it doesn’t mean one should not intervene somewhere. This point is noted. However, this writer is trying to demonstrate that military intervention is always injurious, and that it should only be considered as an option after diplomacy has completely failed. As it stands the African Union (AU) is still flip-flopping in Libya, trying to convince the conflicting sides to agree to a cease-fire. Well, this should have happened before the NATO guns got involved, and president Zuma and his brilliant foreign policy advisors should have stressed diplomacy before voting in favour of a no fly zone. Regrettably, the voices of AU persuasion are currently being muffled by thundering NATO bombs and concomitantly western powers debate on whether or not to arm the rebels – a contentious issue it seems, as Belgium expresses opposition and Germany insists there should be “no military solution.”

It has also been reported that in Ivory Coast, ethnic and political cleavages are as deep as ever, with pro-Ggagbo youth militias arming themselves with Kalashnikov rifles. Furthermore, French forces are patrolling Abidjan, much to the ire Ivorian citizens. A report by Daniel Howden recently read, “On a Charles de Gaulle bridge, a young man in a filthy vest was pushing a cart loaded with firewood. When he saw the French convoy with its helmeted machine gunners coming the other way, he gave them an angry thumbs down. Not far away was a roadblock manned by men without uniforms who were waving guns and threatening people. Abidjan faces a long road to recovery.”  Elsewhere, Reuters reports; “But while Ouattara will assume the presidency he has claimed for the past four months after the disputed election, he will have to confront long-standing ethnic divisions, years of economic stagnation and a worsening humanitarian crisis.”

So what’s the relevance of all this? It’s simple: Zimbabweans should not emulate the so-called ‘popular revolutions’ of the Maghreb. The situation in Ivory Coast demonstrates the long-term consequences of war, while the situation in Libya demonstrates that leaders will not always heed the demands of so-called protesters. The United Nations has reported that some three million Libyans are currently in need of humanitarian aid. The question then arises: why should Zimbabwe follow such a trajectory? As it stands, Zimbabwe is improving, albeit very slightly and slowly.

In light of this, my hat’s off to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who urged his MDC-T party supporters “to live peacefully with their political rivals in Zanu (PF).” He was speaking at the burial of the first MDC-T mayor Engineer Alois Vhuramayi Chaimiti at the Masvingo Cathedral on Sunday the 10th of April 2011. Certainly, any statesman who promotes peace is worthy of honour. When one looks at Ivory Coast and Libya today – mere shadows of what they were six months ago, one can appreciate the value of quiet diplomacy.

Tau Tawengwa is the Secretary General Of Zimbabwe Renaissance Society.


What happens in Libya stays in Libya.

Recently in South Africa, Julius Malema- the leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), and Bantu Hlolomisa- the leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and various other political commentators have come out publicly criticizing the South African government led by president Jacob Zuma for voting in favour of the United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution 1973 which allowed for the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya. Voting in favour of UN resolution 1973 is equal to supporting the invasion of a sovereign African state, they say.

On the other hand, some political commentators are criticizing the United States of America and western powers generally, suggesting that the powerful nations of this world represented in NATO only take action against oppression when they are directly able to benefit, and this is why, it is alleged, they only involve themselves militarily in oil rich regions and not in countries like Muammar, North Korea and Zimbabwe for example.

It seems that prior to the enforcement of the no fly zone over Libya, Colonel Gaddaffi’s forces were indiscriminately bombing rebel targets. Yet, as we all know, the Libyan insurgents are hardly organised, let alone recognizable, and therefore Gaddafi’s ‘rebel targets’ almost certainly included civilians and we cannot be sure how many civilians died as a result of Gaddafi’s air-strikes.

Ironically, the NATO air strikes aimed at Gaddafi’s forces and bases are also allegedly killing civilians. And at this point, the air-strikes haven’t really benefited the rebels, who are still under heavy fire from Gaddafi’s forces. As a result president Obama and his pentagon advisors are allegedly mulling over equipping and training the rebel forces. Does Julius Malema therefore have a point when he says that the South African government’s support of UN resolution 1973 is tantamount to supporting regime change and invasion?

The events in Libya have a greater significance closer to home. At the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika summit in Livingstone Zambia on the 31st of March 2011, the Zambian president – Rupiah Banda emphatically stated that the events in Libya and other parts of the Maghreb demonstrated what could happen if leaders continue on their own courses without considering their people. This writer agrees with president Banda, and having deduced that it is impossible to anticipate how any given country will vote at the UN Security Council, it is especially important that the Zimbabwean leaders across the political divide, and their  regional counterparts ensure that what is happening in Libya does not happen in Zimbabwe.

While we don’t know the definite numbers, we can imagine that thousands of Libyans have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in that conflict. One can imagine that in Libya, homes have been destroyed, livelihoods have been wrecked, wives have been widowed and children have been orphaned- we don’t need more of this in Zimbabwe. At the troika summit President Jacob Zuma suggested that SADC pressures all parties in Zimbabwe to fulfil all their Global Political Agreement (GPA) commitments before elections should occur. If that’s what it takes to avoid bloodshed, then it seems wise for all parties in Zimbabwe to heed to this call.

Tau Tawengwa is the Secretary General of Zimbabwe Renaissance Society.