By Zvisineyi Chiromo
Are we overlooking citizens working in the shadows alongside brave activists fighting for our struggles?
The world over, Zimbabweans are openly challenged for their perceived inaction against the country’s destruction. Sympathizers say that the people are immobilized by fear and for good reason. The ongoing political chaos shows us that both MDC-T and MDC-A are losing their grip on reality for the former and legality for the latter, while ZANU PF does what it always does.
Activists are on the frontline demanding change and being brutalized for it. The most recent victims, Joanah Mamombe, Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chinembiri join a long line, while journalists tirelessly report these happenings and are not given enough credit for walking a parallel path.
They have increasingly been amplified by passionate citizens via online platforms. The spectators watch with bated breath for any good news. What has immobilized the system though, is assuming anyone who is not protesting in the streets, must transition to activism. Everyone is needed, however small their role.
Perhaps flipping the narrative to allow the people embody more than the Activist persona might encourage more citizens to speak out and influence the country’s future, rekindling its courageous spirit.
As we pray for and commend the people who take space for us physically, let’s shift our thinking to what the majority can do? I offer three suggestions of how citizens can harness their many gifts and talents to pivot them in support of those on the frontline.
Firstly, amplify voices on all shareable platforms. Expose corruption, abuse of power and the blatant use of national funds for personal gain. People may not be strong enough to oppose the government but they can speak. The saying goes, ‘God helps those who help themselves’, and Zimbabwe needs to help itself.
Zimbabweans have the gift of the gab. Whether it is ‘kushorana/ ukweyisana’, ‘kusekana/ ukuhlekana’ or ‘kufara/ ukuthaba’ we certainly are talented orators.
Many say unarmed civilians have no chance against armed security forces. Recent history has shown that citizens do not want to participate in the military game, it is their game. Our game is the sharing game. We love ‘matare/ inkundla’ so let’s continue them.
Momentum stems from motion. Move with the tools you have and one by one voices will rise. It is easy to attack a lone adversary but when there are thousands and in this case millions of voices the sound is so loud as to drown any push back.
Secondly, imagine what the ideal Zimbabwe looks like beyond the current status quo. It lies in the shadows of the progressive constitution that keeps terms to a minimum and devolves power at least increasing the odds for corrupt officials to be neutralized by progressive counterparts.
Holding on to this hope and in minor ways working with progressive government officials we may achieve milestones that will add up over time. Remove focus from the bigger picture to smaller actionable goals within smaller communities.
Lastly, I urge political parties to widen their influence with the people wherever they may be geographically. Share the activities and milestones the parties are winning in. Trust is built over time and through acts with clear milestones.
Again, at least for the people, remove focus on the bigger picture and reveal the progress for the citizens to be encouraged and to show support. People are willing to support, they just don’t know how. The vision and call to action must go beyond the current die hard member. There needs to be more done for the outliers to participate.
Leadership is a double edged sword. On the one hand it is awe inspiring when someone pledges to take on such a heavy burden. On the other the people look to and question everything the leader does, but such is the mantle. As long as that leader lives the vision for the people, the people will stand firm and follow.
With this retooling we take a big step to accepting and recovering from the self-criticism we have been drowning in. Forgiving ourselves and building on our strengths as a people.
We can even take a leaf from the past month’s African American outrage which provoked many of us to question our inaction. While their protests were a result of the straw that finally broke the black camel’s back and left many asking the question, ‘what will it take for us Zimbabwe?’, it is high time we acknowledge that we have been acting, in the best way we know. Whether our break point will be reached is not the question, but will you use your voice?
The Americans have a semi-supportive environment for mass protest. For Zimbabwe, it is a one by one affair. The most recent causes, #ThisFlag, #Tajamuka/Sesjikile showed tremendous support.
Though they ran out of steam or gave in to the space between the rock and the hard place, we can empathize why they too got exhausted by lack of mass support. When they tired, we hid away. We allowed the many conspiracy theories surrounding such movements to stamp out our confidence whether true or false.
Whatever the case, we are more empowered now than we think we are. We just have to think outside the box of fear.
Zvisineyi Chiromo is a Zimbabwean based in the diaspora.