The Politics of Dynasty

I’ve taken time recently to research around the issue of whether or not Nelson Mandela “sold out” as some African radicals have suggested in the recent past.


According to reports, sometime in 2010, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told a British Publication that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu had “sold out” to the whites.


“Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded,” Madikizela-Mandela told the London Evening Standard.


Also, elsewhere, Julius Malema stated that former president Nelson Mandela turned his back on parts of the revolution after being released from prison- whatever that means.


It has also been reported that certain of South Africa’s cabinet ministers alongside certain African presidents also share this sentiment.


Perhaps when one says that “Mandela sold out,” one means that the late statesman didn’t do enough to take the means of production and economic wealth out of the hands of the minority, and systematically transfer both political and economic power into the majority black hands.


I suppose that this is what many radical-cum-populist-politicians think the struggle against apartheid and colonialism was all about.


Nonetheless, I beg to differ.


Perhaps the debate about former president Mandela’s legacy should not be about what he didn’t do, but rather, about what he did do.


For those who would care to know, here are some interesting facts about South Africa’s democracy today which we can still accredit to Madiba.


  • Firstly, South Africa has strong institutions that support the notions of accountability, equity and rule of law. This is in contrast to many African countries which hide behind radical rhetoric and colonial finger-pointing in order to justify unaccountability and oppression.


  • Secondly, South Africa is one of Africa’s “big three” economies alongside Egypt and Nigeria. In fact in 2016, South Africa’s GDP stood at approximately 295 billion dollars. To put this into perspective, consider that Botswana (a country with a population of 2.2 million people) had a GDP of around 15 billion USD in 2016, while the self-proclaimed “regional revolutionary,” Zimbabwe had an inconsequential GDP of around 16 billion USD in 2016.


All in all South Africa represents 61% of SADC’S regional GDP while the so called “revolutionary” countries like Zimbabwe are underperformers given their vast mineral and agricultural potential.


Inevitably the question arises, why is it that Nelson Mandela is labelled a sell-out when the economy that he presided over is still institutionally strong and growing (albeit minimally), whereas other “revolutionary” states in SADC remain economic non-entities?


Perhaps the answer lies in the dynastic ambitions of avaricious African leaders.


Allow me to explain.



Political Dynasties


“It is not easy for a person to do any great harm when his tenure of office is short, whereas long possession begets tyranny.” Aristotle


To be honest, Nelson Mandela deserves every iota of respect that he has earned as a statesman. It’s not that he was perfect, because no man is perfect, and I know that I’m certainly not perfect.


However, after studying politics and African politicians for many years, I can safely conclude that Nelson Mandela did not “sell out” as some would have us to believe.


Instead, he took the straight and narrow political path of a single term in office and brutal accountability which is unlike many of his African political counterparts who cannot comprehend the meaning of the terms “step down” or “transparency.”


Here are some interesting observations.


In 2015, Togo, a country of approximately 7 million people voted for incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé for a third time.


Gnassingbé is the son and immediate successor of Togo’s fifth president—Gnassingbé Eyadema—and, once he serves out his third term, his family will have run Togo for 48 years.


Of course, this was not taken lying down by the Togolese public, and today in 2017, there are increasing calls and protests for President Faure Gnassingbé to step down. To date, it is reported that up to 13 people have been killed and hundreds of people have been rounded up, in what appears to be a crackdown on anti-dynasty protests.


Elsewhere, In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kabila dynasty was established after a bloody coup d’état in 1997, when the Laurent Kabila militarily overthrew the long-ruling despot Mobutu Sese Seko.


That dynasty almost ended when Kabila senior was assassinated in January 2001.


Since then Kabila’s son Joseph has been at the helm of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and consequently he has presided over a nation characterized by repression instability and volatility.


Now that Joseph Kabila’s second term is over, he is refusing to step down, and as a result he is facing increasing protests and opposition to his continued stay in office.


Contemporary voters detest dynasties. Period.


In fact, public resistance to dynastic political projects is not uniquely African either.


In the United States Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump partly because of the abhorrence society has for political dynasties.


The bottom line is that in the modern world the people don’t like political dynasties.


Conceivably, in his political wisdom, Nelson Mandela caught this revelation.


I mean had he wanted to, he could have orchestrated his own dynasty. It’s not that he couldn’t have done it-He could.


In fact, He had the charisma, he had global support, he had the power, and he had the intellect to do so.


But instead he chose the politically straight and narrow path, and not the wide road of profligacy, wanton power, repression and egocentrism.


The fact that today so many African migrants live in South Africa is a testimony to Mandela’s legacy, and that is corroborating evidence that he in fact did not sell out, and instead believed that strong institutions, constitutionalism and accountability were the building blocks of a better South Africa.


Those who denounce him as a sell-out today, do so because his legacy of constitutionalism limits their liberty to loot.


Nevertheless it remains, as illustrated earlier that contemporary voters do not appreciate dynasties.


Now, with the ANC elective congress fast approaching, I perceive that the ruling African National Congress is caught between a rock and a hard place.


On the one hand, Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma is a revered and an experienced politician who has served well both nationally and internationally and perhaps would make a brilliant state and party president.


On the other hand, despite her positive attributes, as the ex-wife of sitting President Jacob Zuma, she is perceived as a pawn in a greater political dynastic agenda, and as mentioned earlier, contemporary voters do not respond positively to political dynasties.


Look at Togo, look at DRC, go ahead and ask Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush- in contemporary politics the dynastic agenda is bad for national business.


If anything, I would hope that the frontrunners in the ANC presidential race heed this warning and consider that the voting South African Public will not respond well to the Zuma dynasty political agenda- especially not in the context of a fledging economy, student protests, social problems and a slow growth.


If the ANC pursues its dynastic political agenda in December, it risks losing everything come the 2019 elections.


Already, the 2016 municipal election results show us that voters are unhappy with the ANC. The dynastic politics president Zuma is currently pursuing will only worsen the discontent.


The same can be said of ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe. If reports are true that President Mugabe is pursuing a dynastic political agenda, then ZANU-PF should prepare for perpetual political unrest in Zimbabwe, just like we are seeing it in Togo and the DRC.


At the end of the day this is what is clear to me: the politician that walks in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela will prosper. He was a politician’s politician, and his legacy lives through the strong institutions that he fought for.
Forward with democracy. Down with dynasty.

Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director


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The Zimbabwean Constitution (Amendment 20) of 2013 section 20 speaks about Youths.


Under section 20 the supreme law explicitly states that:


(1) The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must take reasonable measures, including affirmative action programmes, to ensure that youths, that is to say people between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five years

(a)  have access to appropriate education and training;
(b) have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life;
(c) are afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment;
(d) have opportunities for recreational activities and access to recreational facilities; and
(e) are protected from harmful cultural practices, exploitation and all forms of abuse.


Under the same section, the constitution also states that:


(2) An Act of Parliament may provide for one or more national youth programmes.
(3) Measures and programmes referred to in subsections (1) and (2) must be inclusive, non- partisan and national in character.



2018 Voter Demographics


The Zimbabwean electorate arguably consists of the following sub-groups:


(a) The non-voter that is apathetic and does not care about politics.

(b) The stable voter whose vote is partisan and constant.

(c) The unstable voter who cares little about politics and votes erratically.

(d) The stable voter with high level of information. (S)he has a moderate knowledge of politics and votes consistently.

(e) The highly informed unstable voter, who makes his own decision at each moment.



Now what’s interesting about the 2018 election is that the outcome will largely be influenced by the youth vote.



This is because approximately 60% of eligible voters are below the age of 35, while  only about 7-8% of eligible voters are 60 years old and above.



This contrast in numbers is stark, because ostensibly, the 7-8% demographic still holds the majority of positions in business and politics while the 60% majority lives a general life of underemployment and substance abuse.



This condition has created what economists and sociologists refer to as a high “age dependency ratio” in Zimbabwe.



Nevertheless, this also means that the outcome of the 2018 election will largely be determined by voters under 35 (the majority of which are women).



Interestingly, the high rate of rural-urban migration over the last five years has seen an increase in the population in Harare Metropolitan province, to the extent that voters in Harare Metropolitan Province could determine the outcome of the 2018 elections.



This is because Harare Province had 800 000 registered voters in 2013, and come 2018 Harare Province may see over one million registered voters casting their ballots.



With a total of around 3 million national votes cast in the last election, this makes Harare Province one of the key electoral battle zones come 2018, because Harare province alone carries close to one third of the national vote.



Now, since we’ve determined that the youth vote will play the biggest role in seeing who wins in 2018, here are a few important points that politicians should consider as they campaign and attempt to convince youths to vote for them come 2018.





Key Electoral Points


  • Employment



 If anything, urban unemployment is apparent for all to see.



In fact the “informal sector” as we call it seems to have outgrown the formal sector particularly in Harare.



This means that touts, vendors, “mucheka cheka” drivers, broncleer and other drug dealers, prostitutes, car washers, currency traders, shabeen owners, air time and newspaper sellers and others who trade illicitly and informally are more in number than those who are in formal jobs in Harare.



Unfortunately it is not enough to tell these people that jobs will be created after 2018 because they have been told that before.


Instead, it makes sense to take cue from countries like Lesotho, South Africa and Kenya where there is a loud and clear lobby for the youth to form consortiums and accordingly pitch for a percentage of government tenders and top positions in parastatals .


These tenders should be given to youth consortiums   according to the ratio represented by the youth in the country, in other words 60% of tenders should be allocated to youth consortiums,  and 60% of high level parastatal positions should be allocated to the youth in line with section 20 of the constitution.


It just doesn’t make sense that 7-8% of the population (that is those over sixty) should hold the majority of key government positions when 60% of the population are under 40.



  • Accommodation



One thing that I have observed in both high and low density areas of Harare, is that the prevalence of the youth live with their parents sometimes up to the age of 40.



Whether or not our politicians want to acknowledge this, it must be observed that it is an uncomfortable and untenable situation.



I often hear parents who started working just after independence openly stating that they owned their own cars and houses by the time that they were 30 years old.



With that in mind, our politicians need be answerable and explain to the electorate why they can’t give people the same opportunities today, and what solutions they have to the problem of accommodation which is a key electoral point particularly in Harare province.



  • Factionalism/Tribalism



Most young people who are born free (that is, born after 1980) barely understand racism, let alone factionalism and tribalism.



From my analysis of the grassroots, factionalism seems to be a game largely influenced by the minority 7-8% of the population (those above the age of 60).



Young people generally don’t care about who is from what region or which faction etc. They are more concerned about good leadership and progress.



Young people are concerned about money in their pockets, accommodation, being able to live decent lives and being able to raise their children.



It is important that politicians acknowledge this as we approach 2018, because the politicians that work for the betterment of the youth today, will not only be handsomely rewarded in the 2018 election but also in 2023.



The fact is that the 7-8% voter group of 60 and above have played their part in business and politics, but are now a minority and must give room for the majority youth lobby.



It is in that context that I support the ongoing Youth Interface meetings, yet I hope that all the political rhetoric we have been hearing surrounding the well-being of youths is supported by practical political will and action.



After all, section 20 of the constitution acknowledges the rights of the youth. Come 2018, let’s hope our politicians will do the same.



Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director



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Anomie, Substance Abuse and Voter apathy in Zimbabwe


It is election season again in Zimbabwe, and political players are out and about making all kinds of claims about all kinds of things.


What always amuses me is how political parties present themselves as a panacea to the socioeconomic problems the electorate is facing.


This reminds me of a saying from George Eliot’s book: “Felix Holt, the Radical;”


‘An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.’


Of particular interest to me at this point are the claims by the major political parties that they will recruit hundreds of thousands of supporters prior to the polls.


In fact, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC-T has publicly stated that his party intends to recruit 800 000 new supporters in Harare Metropolitan province.


Similarly ZANU-PF’s Harare Province Commissariat has publicly stated that it intends to recruit over 500 000 members before the 2018 elections.


Of course, political parties are in the business of attaining or retaining power and therefore they should not be criticized for desiring to increase their membership.


Naturally, the MDC-T sees Harare province as ripe for recruitment for two reasons.
Firstly, the non-urban or rural constituencies are traditional ZANU-PF strongholds.


That, and the fact that this year the country is likely to experience a bumper harvest for the first time in almost two decades  make the rural constituencies scarcely winnable for opposition politics.


Secondly, Harare Province has been the hotbed for opposition politics since 2000.


Thorny economic circumstances and embargo induced company closures in Harare over the years make the province ripe for a youth targeted recruitment drive in the eyes of opposition politics.


However, in my view the issue of anomie and substance abuse in Harare will have a direct impact on voter apathy, meaning attempting to recruit 800 000 young voters is a long shot to say the least.


Substance Abuse in Harare


Anomie refers to a kind of hopelessness or confusion that arises when social norms conflict, stop making sense or cease to even exist.


Social norms are the rules of behaviour that are considered acceptable in a group or society.


So for example, where it was traditionally the norm in Zimbabwe to go to school, university and graduate, find work and start a family, unfortunately that traditional chain of events stopped making sense in the early nineties when HIV/AIDS left several Zimbabwean families without breadwinners and children had to fend for themselves.


The trend was acerbated between the year 2000 and the present day owing to economic decline.


Clearly, our society in general, and our youth in particular are in a state of anomie, and as a result, our youth are generally deviant.


Personally, I have witnessed those “mucheka-cheka” youth driven public transportation cars speeding away from police with four or five youths standing precariously on the back of the vehicle-drinking bronco.


Twenty years ago, you would have never thought you would see anything like that in Harare. It is a sign of anomie.

I have also read a report in which a Zimbabwe United Nations Association Youth president stated that 65% of youths suffer from mental problems due to drug and substance abuse. This is a sign of anomie.


Furthermore, the proliferation of commercial sex workers that are now visible in the daytime in areas like Greendale is a sign of anomie.


Twenty years ago in Harare, you would never have imagined such.


Now I have heard certain politicians insist that the country’s current state of anomie is owing to bad politics and bad economics, and that “investment” and “job-creation” is the solution.


However, I dispute that, because anomie and youth deviancy are also rampant in highly industrialized societies like the USA, Canada, Britain and South Africa.


In any respect, what is clear to me is that the many people who are under this condition of anomie will not be the first in line to register as voters; neither will they be running to the polling station come 2018.


They will probably be looking for their next fix of Zed or Bronco.


While the state on Anomie in Zimbabwe is somewhat disconcerting, the truth is that it is social problem, and therefore it will need to be addressed by social institutions.


Such institutions include (extended) families, religious groups, Educational Institutions, Community and Non-Government Organizations.


Ultimately, Government needs to acknowledge and address anomie in Zimbabwe, because anomie is a precursor to violent crime.


Finally, given the state of anomie, I do not see political parties recruiting anywhere near 800 000 new voters. The current state of anomie will not allow that to happen.


Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director


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The Politics of #ThisFlag


The year 2016 has seen an explosion of online activism and hashtag movements in Zimbabwe, with #This Flag and #Tajamuka/Sesjikile being arguably the most prominent social media hashtags in the country.


Generally speaking, Zimbabwean online activism in 2016 has been characterized by impulsivity and emotionality, mostly in reaction to the thorny socio-economic circumstances currently experienced by many people within the country.


By Definition, social media activism, or hashtag activism means “supporting a cause through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networking websites.”


In addition, hashtag activism “is the kind of activism that does not require any action from the person other than sharing or “liking” a post or “retweeting” tweets.”


It must be observed that online or hashtag activism is different from political activism, which often takes the form of street protests and picketing.


In this regard, it should be noted that the popular Zimbabwean-born hashtag: #this flag, is an example of online activism, while the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign is actually a political movement.


In this article, I will explain why the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign is an organized political group designed to achieve political outcomes.


I will also explain why the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign should be differentiated from other spontaneous online movements like #ThisFlag.


Hashtag Movements and Online Activism

Protesting and picketing on the street has been the common method of raising consciousness and awareness around political and social issues for many years.


Even today, civic and political groups still organize pickets and demonstrations to raise consciousness.


However, owing to the advent of smart phones and the global proliferation of the internet, consciousness can now be raised online using hashtags, live video posts, like buttons and memes instead of loudspeakers and picket placards.


Some of the most popular online hashtag movements that I have come across in the last few years are listed below.


#Black Lives Matter


In 2014 police brutality in Ferguson USA and other parts of America led to an outcry on social media.


The deaths of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and Laquan McDonald (African Americans who were killed by white American Police Officers) inspired the #BlackLivesMatter movement’s momentum throughout 2015.


As a result #BlackLivesMatter was tweeted over 9 million times, and now in 2016 the hashtag movement that started on social media, has become a social movement aimed at achieving social justice and racial equality across the USA.


#Pray For Paris


After terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 129 people in Paris in November 2015, over 70 million people from 200 countries took to social media where they expressed their prayers and support for France. The number one trending social media hashtag was #PrayForParis.


#I Stand With Ahmed


This became a popular social media hashtag in America when 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested in September 2015 by Texas police for taking a homemade clock to school.


The police assumed the clock was some kind of bomb.


#I Stand With Ahmed became a symbol for the issue of American islamophobia and racism.


#Oscars So White


This hashtag was created to protest the under-representation of black people at the annual Academy Award nominations.


The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was meant as a response to the lack of racial diversity in the 2015/2016 Oscar nominations, and what started as a small comment on social media became an American social media awareness campaign.


Eventually, Mainstream American media picked up the hashtag, and some celebrities announced they would boycott the Oscars in protest of the under-representation of black people.

#This Flag


#ThisFlag is a Zimbabwean hashtag movement that rose to prominence in mid 2016 when Pastor Evan Mawarire spontaneously started posting videos online, lamenting Zimbabwe’s socioeconomic circumstances.


Consequently, he managed to organize a national stay way in July that was perceived as successful. He did this all online.


Today,  #ThisFlag has about sixty thousand online followers.


#This Flag versus #Tajamuka/Sesjikile

Now, here are some things that have been particularly interesting to me.


Around the time when #ThisFlag rose to prominence in mid 2016, we started to hear more and more from a group called #Tajamuka/Sesjikile.


In fact. not many people knew about #Tajamuka/Sesjikile before Pastor Evan Mawarire came to prominence.


However, the more Pastor Evan Mawarire and #This Flag gained mainstream popularity, the more it seemed the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign tried to associate itself with #ThisFlag.


I found this quite curious because the two are quite conflicting creatures.


While #ThisFlag is an online movement led by a shepherd, on the other hand, #Tajamuka/Sesjikile is perhaps a political pressure group of wolves in sheep’s’ clothing.


In fact, earlier this year, members of the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign told a South African Media house that “President Mugabe should quit immediately…[that] they would do anything to make sure this happened.”


Furthermore, when asked his opinion about Pastor Evan Mawarire and #This Flag, the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile spokesperson responded by saying: “The objectives are obviously the same… but at the same time, we believe that Tajamuka brings in the value of real leadership on the ground.”


He also stated that the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign comprised of 14 political parties including MDC-N and MDC-T.


Now here is the thing. As I mentioned earlier, a hashtag movement has specific characteristics.


Firstly, a Hashtag Movement is born online, it is spontaneous, and it combines diverse groups irrespective of race, political persuasion, gender, ethnicity, or nationality.


Furthermore, the purpose of a hashtag movement is to raise awareness around a specific issue.


While #This Flag fits the definition of an online/hashtag movement, #Tajamuka/Sesjikile is the opposite.


#Tajamuka/Sesjikile is in fact, politically organized, and comprises of political activists that seek to achieve political goals.


Unlike #ThisFlag that constantly speaks of non-violence, and non-partisanship, the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile is confrontational, abrasive, partisan and has demonstrated its willingness to participate in violent protests.


I supposed that is what the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile leader meant when he said, “Tajamuka brings in the value of real leadership on the ground.”


Also, ironically, when Pastor Evan Mawarire decided to seek refuge in the USA, it appeared as though most of the people disappointed by his departure felt hard-done-by, because they assumed that the plight of #ThisFlag was synonymous with the plight of the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign.


In other words, most of the people who criticize Pastor Mawarire for skipping the country are people who identify with the narrow interests of the political outfits comprising #Tajamuka/Sesjikile.


Perhaps they thought that in the pastor, they had found an unsuspecting sacrificial lamb that could be slain on the altar of political expediency.


Yet from where I stand, Pastor Evan did well by leaving the country.


At the end of the day, I suggest that #ThisFlag dissociates itself not only from #Tajamuka/Sesjikile, but also from politics in general.


As Pastor Evan Mawarire said in an online post recently, #ThisFlag seeks to accommodate supporters from across the political spectrum.


#ThisFlag should therefore detach itself from the narrow political interests of radical groups, and rather focus on constitutionalism and providing key social services.


It is in that light that calls by #ThisFlag to mobilize resources for hospitals without medicine are welcome.


Ultimately, a citizen’s movement should seek to serve all citizens. If  #Thisflag is a citizen’s movement, it should therefore be cautious not to be lured into the arena of narrow political interests.


Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director



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#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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Active Citizenship and Constitutionalism in Zimbabwe


Active Citizenship and Constitutionalism in Zimbabwe

Recently in cyberspace, a variety of politically and socially related contributions have been made by various Zimbabwean activists in the forms of online video posts, blogs, and interviews.


One of the most notable activists is Acie Lumumba, who has released a series of videos online criticizing allegedly corrupt officials in the Zimbabwean government.


Another activist who has caught the attention of Zimbabweans all over the world is Evan Mawarire who is the originator of #ThisFlag campaign.


Evan Mawarire, who is now popularly known as the “flag pastor”, has released a series of online videos bemoaning the socio-economic circumstances currently experienced by ordinary Zimbabweans.


As a means of expressing socioeconomic frustrations, Mawarire has urged Zimbabweans to carry the Zimbabwean flag as they go about their daily business.


Many Zimbabweans have heeded that call, and as I write this, the “flag pastor” has thousands of followers on different social media platforms.


Now this recent display of online activism interests me for two reasons.


Firstly, because the Harare based Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) wrote in a 2015 publication that “Zimbabwean citizens show very low levels of participation, and very high levels of fear about participation.”


Yet, clearly, the high levels of online activism that Zimbabwe has seen recently shows that RAU did not take social media as a form of participation into account when they reached that conclusion.


Secondly, I find it interesting that some politicians have called these online activists all sorts of politically incorrect names like “puppets” and “funded by the west,” and this demonstrates that Zimbabwe still does not distinguish between political activism and Active Citizenship, which I will discuss here.


Active Citizenship

Imagine yourself at a wedding that has over five hundred guests.


Without doubt, such a large group will comprise people of diverse professions, socioeconomic classes, races, different ages, and even diverse political views.


If a fire happened to break out in the kitchen while you were enjoying the reception, you would probably make an announcement in attempt to ensure that everyone in attendance realised the situation and the right direction to safety.


Such an announcement would be for all the guests and not only those who share your political standpoint. This is an analogy of Active Citizenship.


In fact, Active Citizenship in simple terms refers to citizens actively performing roles on behalf of their neighborhoods, communities and even the country as a whole.


Active Citizenship is not the same as political activism.


While Active Citizenship refers to individuals performing roles on behalf of the wider community despite differences in political views, political activism points to individuals performing roles for the benefit of a political party.


Political activism therefore, excludes members of other political parities based upon their political affiliation.


For instance, the ZANU-PF Youth League million-man march planned for May 25 2016 is an example of political activism, and not Active Citizenship.


Now, when I consider Acie Lumumba and Evan Mawarire and the content of their videos, I do not get an impression of political activism.


Instead, all I see is young people of dissimilar political persuasions airing their views on issues that currently affect all Zimbabweans.


Let’s ask ourselves some questions. Firstly, is corruption a problem in Zimbabwe? Yes it is. It is a problem for every citizen.


Furthermore, are the socioeconomic circumstances that Zimbabweans are facing favorable? The answer is no, they are not. That is true across the board of political affiliation.


In real terms, we as Zimbabweans have over the years failed to distinguish between Active Citizenship and political activism.


I mean consider it; filling up potholes in your street should not be the responsibility of a single political party. Citizens in that street can come together, despite political differences and fix the road for the benefit of the neighbourhood.


In addition, forming a neighbourhood watch group to mitigate crime is not the responsibility of any one party.


It is the responsibility of all members of the community who are suffering from an increase in crime.


Again, collecting donations on behalf of less privileged citizens is not only the responsibility of the ministry in charge of social welfare. All citizens, despite political differences, are able to come together and do the same.


Recently it was revealed that 200 Zimbabwean women were trafficked to Kuwait.


Those are women of varying ages, geographical backgrounds, and political persuasions.


If someone wakes up tomorrow and makes an online video denouncing the trafficking of those women, then that can only be seen to be Active Citizenship, since human trafficking affects all our citizens.


In that light, I think there is nothing wrong with Acie Lumumba and Evan Mawarire’s online posts, because they are speaking about issues that affect all Zimbabweans, despite political affiliation. That is Active Citizenship.



Speaking in South Africa recently former president Thabo Mbeki insisted that “The constitution must be a daily document that helps us to act to build the kind of…[nation] which the constitution spells out and that is what I think might save us from wrong things that governments do….”


Basically, former president Thabo Mbeki was saying that citizens must keep the government accountable to the constitution.
It is important to keep in mind that Chapter two of our constitution, obliges our state to pursue (among other things) good governance, national development, empowerment and employment creation, shelter and food security for all Zimbabwean citizens.


At the end of the day, the reason behind Active Citizenship is the promotion of these constitutional rights.


This means that these online videos, posts and campaigns that we have been seeing should be perceived as expressions of frustration coming from citizens who wish to see the fulfillment of their constitutional rights.


If we recall, in recent history the one thing that Zimbabweans agreed to nearly unanimously is the constitution of the republic.


In fact, in March 2013 Zimbabwe held a constitutional referendum, which saw about 95% of voters voting in favour of our current constitution.


Essentially, this means that almost all Zimbabweans across race, gender, tribal, and party lines agreed that the state would be limited by the constitution, and that citizens would be governed according to the constitution.


Therefore, whenever there is an outcry from citizens as we are seeing on social media today, it is the duty of the state to check whether those citizens are acting within their constitutional rights, and whether the state itself is fulfilling its constitutional mandate and to act accordingly.


Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director



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