By Luke Tamborinyoka
The conviction on trumped up charges of MDC Alliance Youth Assembly national executive member Makomborero Haruzivishe could well be the signal for Zimbabweans to streetify their revulsion of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s continued repression of the people of Zimbabwe.
What happened this week is a signal for decisive action, a frenzied exhortation, nay an incitement by the regime itself for Zimbabweans to express their full measure of disapproval through massive peaceful action as permitted under the national Constitution.
Since 2017, this illegitimate regime has provocatively poked our eyes: the murders and callous killings, the abductions and brutal assaults, the unwarranted recalls of elected MPs and councillors, the escalating repression and human rights abuses, the massive sleaze and corruption by senior State actors and the politically connected elite, the imprisonment of innocent citizens while those who looted State funds are roaming the streets are all part of a toxic milieu representative of the cumulative taunts now demanding a decisive response.
On my part, this is the last time I am writing about the need for decisive action. We have spoken the action for far too long. The time has now come for us to collectively act the action and not to continuously speak it!
Let us now act the action and Mako’s needless 24 months effective sentence is enough signal for us to change gear.
This is the signal that some Zimbabweans have been clamouring for.
Yes, this is the signal.
Our problem is that we so much deify and personalise a whole struggle to the extent that we expect the signal to come from some political leader or a lofty office vested with power. While leaders should lead the struggle, the signal may invariably not come from them.
This is our struggle and our leaders who are not new to arrests and brutality themselves will be part of us on the streets but they may not necessarily originate the signal themselves, just as it may be a poor kid with a running nose who rings the bell for school assembly and not necessarily the school headmaster himself. The reality is that the school headmaster sometimes dashes for the school assembly at the sound of the a bell that he has not rung himself!
Throughout history, it is low profile people and not elite politicians and leaders with high profile names that have spurred seismic political shifts and revolutions. It has always been the seemingly innocuous innocent triggers by unfancied small names that have provided the big moments in history. History has rarely been made by some pronouncement by a high profile political leader.
The signal always originates from the infamous non-leaders. It was the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as he walked along Appel Quay Street in Sarajevo that triggered the First World War that realigned world geopolitics to reverberating echoes that have endured to this day.
In January 2011, it was the inconspicuous 26 year old Mohamed Bouazizi who triggered what became known as the Arab Spring and reshaped the politics of a whole subregion in a way never seen before.
And in our case it is young Makomborero Haruzivishe who literally whistled the clarion call to give the much awaited signal, in coincidental fulfilment of my submission three weeks ago that the youth of this generation must exhibit gallantry by stepping up to the plate.
Mako has given the signal. His conviction is a bellowing call to a whole nation to “luke” this ruthless cabal right into the retina of their wicked and murderous eye!
In August 2020, I wrote about the lessons that can be drawn from history on the efficacy of peaceful, non-violent action by a repressed people in changing their tenuous lived circumstance.
Fellow Zimbabweans, this is the signal.
This week’s conviction of an innocent young man and the bid to create an imperial President through the passing of the Constitutional Amendment No. 1 Bill, even if the much-vaunted passage may be patently unconstitutional, both represent two middle fingers by this regime.
The beast now deserves a robust response.
This is the signal.
Historians and ardent scholars of political science may well know that the route of massive but peaceful action has been used before to redraw a despondent people’s parlous circumstances.
The efficacy of non-violent action : Lessons from History
In every jurisdiction, it is the people–and not the leaders—who are truly sovereign. As long as they engage in massive peaceful action within the precincts of their respective Constitutions, it is always the remit of ordinary citizens to sculpt, redefine and determine the manner in which they ought to be governed.
In the case of Zimbabwe, section 59 of the Constitution, a Constitution written by the people themselves and affirmed in a referendum in May 2013, gives citizens the inalienable right to protest and petition the government, provided they do it peacefully in line with the dictates of the supreme law of the land.
In the run-up to and in the aftermath of July 31 2020, there was a flurry of statements, nay a hubbub of noises and even needless arrests by the regime in Harare ostensibly to proscribe, malign, vilify and criminalise the people’s democratic right to protest and petition.
And yet our Constitution unambiguously gives citizens the inherent right to peacefully exercise people power in order to prise open the ears of an impervious government, moreso one that pickpocketed the people’s will in July 2018.
Memory is a site of the struggle. Memory is a hortative realm to encourage a cowed but repressed citizenry that invariably gets frightened away from its sacred right to point out the glaring inadequacies of their own leaders.
Indeed, history is replete with myriad inspiring incidents of peaceful, non-violent people power that fundamentally shaped and redefined the governance culture in various countries and carved out new circumstances for a people that were on the brink of losing hope.
What is ironic in Harare is how a regime that circumvented the electoral route in November 2017 is now repeatedly reminding us, ad infinitum , of its purported legitimate mandate, even if they yet again sneaked onto the citadel of authority through the pitch-dark orifice of electoral pilferage in 2018.
Now they are accusing innocent people of incitement and violence, yet the only large-scale violence we have ever witnessed as a country has been at the behest of the State. In fact, it is the State itself that has engaged in a frenzied quest to incite Zimbabweans through unmitigated human rights abuses and the undeserved conviction of innocent citizens like Makomborero Haruzivishe.
On the occasion of the country’s Defence Forces Day last year, Mnangagwa paid tribute to the military for quelling what he called “foreign – sponsored violent action” by the country’s civic and political groups.
The irony was lost on him that it was rogue members of the same military he was lauding that day—and to which he is Commander-in-Chief—that were fingered in the August 1 2018 brutal violence and murder of the country’s citizens by the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry that he appointed himself.
Today, the country’s citizenry awaits those culprits in the military to face justice in line with the recommendations of Mnangagwa’s own Commission of Inquiry. The problem in this country has never been citizen violence but State-sponsored violence that began with the Gukurahundi massacres in the early 1980s and in which Mnangagwa’s notorious name features prominently.
This treatise once again gives snippets of some history lessons on the utility of peaceful, non-violent people action as a prudent route in redefining new circumstances for an oppressed citizenry. The moment demands a reflighting of these inspiring non-violent moments in history.
After the signal for action that came from the ill-deserved conviction of a courageous and innocent young man, we should know that simple acts of peaceful, non-violent action by a committed people has in the past collapsed the presumed invincibility of despots in the mould of Emmerson Mnangagwa.
1 . Rosa Parks
I have previously intimated on the monumental consequences of a simple non-violent gesture by one Rosa Parks, a citizen of the United States, on a sunny day on Thursday, 1 December 1955.
Wielding no gun and brandishing no weapon at all, Rosa refused to abet the racist laws in her country through compliance. Declining the mandatory rule to stand up and cede her seat to white passengers in the bus, Rosa remained glued to her seat so that the dignity of the black person could stand again. Put simply, she stood up to racial segregation by committing herself to sitting down! That simple, non-violent gesture triggered the Montgomery bus boycott mainly by black citizens in a move that would greatly impact on American history.
Under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jnr, a largely black population with a sprinkling of white sympathisers made a tenacious and audacious statement against racism by boycotting the racism-riven buses for almost a year.
The bus boycott lasted until 13 November 1956 when the Supreme Court ruled that racial laws requiring segregation in the United States were unconstitutional. Throughout that whole year of boycotting the buses, the people had decided it was far much better to walk in dignity than to ride the buses in humiliation!
Racism was the signal and peaceful, non-violent people power had triumphed yet again!
2 . Martin Luther King Jr and his inspirational speech
On 28 August 1963, during the Washington March, Martin Luther King Jnr electrified the 250 000 non-violent crowd when he delivered his famous I-have-a-dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The peaceful, non-violent march culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Yet again, violation of human rights was the signal and peaceful, non-violent people power triumphed and redefined a people’s circumstances.
In March 1965, Martin Luther King Jnr led the celebrated 87 kilometers march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery in the face of hostility and brutal, vicious attacks by whites. The aim of the peaceful march was to dramatise the dire need for a Federal Voting Rights Bill. The landmark legislation, the Voting Rights Act which enfranchised black people, was passed into law by Congress the same year in 1965.
The desire for the right to vote was the signal. And peaceful, non-violent people power triumphed and redefined a country’s laws and governance culture.
King Jnr, who was not a leader of any political party, encapsulated the efficacy of non-violent people power. On April 4 1968, when he was assassinated by a sniper as he stood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, he had taught the world a cardinal lesson on the utility and efficacy of non-violent people power. A few weeks after his death, the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress, an enduring testimony to what non-violent people power could achieve.
The citizens’ tenuous circumstances were the signal and eventually, massive people action triumphed.
Zimbabweans must continue to be agitated and encouraged by these events from History. In any case, it is perfectly within their Constitutional right to sonorously and peacefully express themselves in order to redefine their own lived circumstances because others have done it before.
This treatise is not meant to incite but solely to give insight on how others have done it before. In any case, it is not criminal to incite a people to exercise an inalienable right that is enshrined in their own Constitution.
3 . The collapse of the USSR
In June 1989, the USSR collapsed by dint of seismic but massive non-violent people action. People power led to the collapse of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union and a people’s circumstances changed without a bullet being fired. The Warsaw Pact folded and in one fell swoop, the map of Eastern Europe was redrawn by popular movements.
The people’s dire lived circumstances were the signal to action and peaceful, non-violent people power triumphed yet again.
Take note, Zimbabwe. By sheer collective courage and unstinting tenacity, a people’s desperate circumstances were redrawn and redefined.
4 . Nelson Mandela and the restraint from needless triumphalism
In neighbouring South Africa, despite spending 27 years in prison on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela took the route of non-violence through dialogue, negotiation and sheer political dexterity to carve out a Rainbow nation of unity, peace and development. South Africa’s independence largely came through the CODESA talks and through negotiation; itself exogenous to the tenuous route of violence and massive loss of human life.
Nelson Mandela became the embodiment of Ghandi’s notion of satyagraha or non-violence. For his efforts, the indefatigable Madiba won the Nobel Peace Prize. Through his aversion to violence, Mandela exhorted an oppressed people and charmed the world through his uncanny dexterity in avoiding both violence and needless triumphalism.
Independent South Africa has had its fair share of critics for its enduring racial inequality but we can learn a lot from Madiba about the power, efficacy and utility of shepherding an oppressed people to pursue the path of non-violence.
5 . The fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines
It was equally through the triumph of non-violent people power in the Philippines that the dictator Ferdinand Marcos fell.
It remains a cardinal lesson that fraudulent elections have a knack of sealing the fate of dictators.Like the proverbial deck of cards, Marcos’ avowed dictatorship crumbled on 22 February 1986 in the aftermath of a pilfered plebiscite. The optics of defecting soldiers and unarmed nuns confronting an armed military was the acme of the triumph of non-violent people power!
Repression of the people was the signal and eventually non-violent people power won the day.
6 . Sharpeville and Tiananmen Square
Non-violence works. Even in instances where a peaceful but agitated people’s action has been violently suppressed through murder and repression, the echoes of people power have endured. Pertinent examples are the Sharpeville massacre of 21 March 1960 and the Tiananmen Square incident in China in June 1989 which pricked the world’s conscience because of the sheer heartlessness through which desperate and oppressed voices were brutally quietened.
In the case of the Sharpeville massacre, it was clear South Africa would never be the same again, even if the oppressor for a moment appeared to have won the duel with the people. In the case of Sharpeville, it is poignant to note that even after the callous murders of innocent people, the world still listened to the voice of the oppressed and that is why Chief Albert Luthuli deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960.
Keep prodding, Zimbabwe. Momentous collective action by the people works and a peek into history will yield practical modules on the successive triumphs of peaceful, non-violent people power!
7 . Morgan Tsvangirai , Gibson Sibanda and the ZCTU
Closer home, it was the peaceful, non-violent but robust ZCTU-led protests under the leadership of Gibson Sibanda and Morgan Tsvangirai in 1998 that culminated in the formation of a people’s project called the Movement for Democratic Change. The non-violent protests eventually catapulted into the national political limelight a humble trade unionist called Morgan Richard Tsvangirai. Zimbabwe’s politics would never be the same again after the massive display of non-violent people power in 1998.
The deteriorating social, economic and political conditions had provided the signal and the heroic people of this land responded accordingly by redrawing the country’s political terrain.
8 . Morgan Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the June 27 2008 sham
The politics of boycott represents another form of non-violence and at one point “Boycott” became Morgan Tsvangirai’s middle name. Notwithstanding the derisive reference by some to boycott as a prudent political and even electoral strategy, it often-times works depending on the context and here an example on this will suffice. It is important to stress that it is the context that determines the utility and efficacy of boycott as a political strategy.
In 2008, there was a massive blood-letting of ordinary Zimbabweans by the Mugabe regime, with Mnangagwa tugging RGM’s brutal coat-tails as a key accomplice, for ED was the Minister of Defence in the military-led brutality against the innocent citizens of this land.
Hundreds, if not thousands of Morgan Tsvangirai’s supporters lost their lives following his victory in the first-round poll of 29 March 2008. Tsvangirai eventually pulled out of the proposed run-off poll that was due on 27 June 2008. Following that senseless and mindless blood-letting, I was personally involved in the drafting of Tsvangirai’s speech in which he announced his withdrawal from the blood – soaked run-off plebiscite.
In his speech, delivered on Saturday 22 June 2008, Morgan Tsvangirai famously declared : “I refuse to walk to State House on top of dead bodies and graves.”
Because of Tsvangirai’s withdrawal, the run-off poll became a sham as both SADC and the AU said the outcome of 27 June 2008 did not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe.
Yes, there are times when participation endorses and legitimises a farce. It may be prudent in some moments to stay away from a grand sham disguised as the genuine article, as the MDC failed to do after SADC had insisted at its summit in Maputo in June 2013 that the Zimbabwe plebiscite slated for the following month should be postponed until a comprehensive reform package was implemented so as to ensure a truly free, fair and credible poll. But by dint of its wisdom or lack of it, the collective MDC participated in the charade and in the process legitimised a gigantic fraud.
Yet through the withdrawal from a sham run-off poll on 22 June 2008, it was that profound affinity to the sanctity of non-violence by the people of Zimbabwe under the able leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai that bred the inclusive government and gave the people respite. Tsvangirai simply led the people away from a violent sham.
In the end, the boycott became a peaceful, non-violent people power that bred bred a new administration in Harare and spawned habitable national circumstances in the aftermath of the massive violence of 2007-2008. The inclusive government was a product of clean hands and an adept leadership that had simply walked away from violence, which resulted in the June 27 2008 event having a sole runner–a violent solo political athlete who failed to convince the world he had won the bloody race in which he had curiously contested against himself!
Only a year ago—the year of our Lord 2020, Zimbabweans did it again. By collectively harping on peaceful action on 31 July 2020, the people smoked out the regime and unwittingly exposed its brutality on the streets to a shocked world.
There has been massive incitement by the regime itself; which incitement must now prompt the people of Zimbabwe to give a befitting massive but non-violent response.
This is now no time for rhetoric. Zimbabweans must now act the action and stop speechifying it.
The incitement and provocation began barely 48 hours after Mnangagwa’s stolen tenure in 2018 when six innocent citizens were brutally killed by State security agents in the streets of Harare on August 1 of that same year.
There have been many other signals in between from the regime itself, many provocative taunts in which this illegitimate lot dared the people.
This week’s conviction of Makomborero Haruzivishe should be the final straw to break the camel’s back. Msko’s conviction remains a sonorous signal to the troubled, weather-beaten people of this land that something must now give.
The time has come to draw a line in the sand.
As a people and as political parties, we have routinely transacted predictable politics in predictable stadia for far too long.
They withdrew our elected representatives and took the people’s money that was due the people’s party under the Political Parties Finance Act. They violently took over the headquarters of the people’s party. They have collapsed the country’s basic health and education system and they have looted national resources. They have arrested innocent citizens while the criminal lot has been left to roam scot free.
We have maintained the silence of the graveyard in all these provocative instances. Now they are taking all of us for granted – – – kudheerera .
Today, every sector has a genuine grievance against this callous lot in government. We have become a nation of grievances, yet we have collectively failed to seek succour in the Constitutional provision that allows us to peacefully express ourselves.
We have become the proverbial son-in-law in Shona folklore who was viciously mauled by a hyena when he visited his in-laws’ compound. As the vicious hyena ate him away and crunched his bones, the son-in-law, out of what some may rightfully deem as misguided respect of his environment and his hosts, maintained his silence.
Upon hearing the sound of crunching bones coming from the lone son-in-law’s bedroom, the hosts shouted out to the courteous and stupidly respectful visitor to inquire on what the crunching sound that pierced through the silent night was all about, to which the now profusely bleeding visitor calmly responded, ” Ndini hangu baba ndiri kudyiwa nebere “(It’s me father-in-law. It’s just me who is being savaged to death by this vicious hyena).
We too have been mauled enough. We too have been silent for far too long, just like the much – too respectful son-in-law who almost died for fear of shouting out! .
In our case, it is now time to heed the signal. They say Mako was whistling in First Street when he was arrested. That whistle must now assume a far much deeper significance.
That whistling was the signal—the clarion call to the whole nation.
It must now be in the public domain that 2021 is the year of Citizens’ Convergence for Change.
This is the year and the time for action. The citizens of this land in their diversity will boisterously pronounce themselves in the wake of this large-scale repression across the country. The nature, form, content and timing of the loud expression is up to us as the citizens.
The heroic people of this land will not be scared away from their Constitutional rights, even against the grim backdrop of the regime embarking on a doomed scorched earth policy as part of a vain bid to decimate the people’s party. The right to peaceful, non-violent protest remains our right and we will not shy away from it. Non-violent action is an oppressed people’s staple diet, their final recourse.
As Federico Mayor, the former UNESCO director-General so aptly put it in 1999:
“Non-violence is a strategy for action, not inaction and certainly not docility……It is based on big ideas and over-arching ethical imperatives that are communicated in everyday gestures. Ghandi walking to the sea and silently plucking a grain of sand, Rosa Parks staying seated on the Montgomery bus, Martin Luther King and thousands of others walking to work in the famous bus boycott. ”
We have all heard Mako’s whistling signal. That was a fervent call to action and his conviction and sentencing an even louder signal that it can no longer be businesses as usual in this country.
Zimbabweans have always been a heroic people; an audacious citizenry that has always prevailed over their circumstance, however dire and tenuous. Across the vast labyrinth of this our beloved country, one can sense and feel a society heavily pregnant with a new one.
Indeed, for Mako, Netsai, Joannah, Cecilia, Tawanda, Tskudzwa, Allan, Hopewell, Job, Fadzai and many others who have “luke-ed” the beast in the eye on the past year, the desire was never to seek martyrdom nor sainthood. They remain ordinary citizens driven by nothing else but their unbridled patriotism and the purity and sanctity of their cause.
Very soon, there might be nowhere to hide, even for the puppets of white capital who today are displacing their fellow countrymen from their ancestral land for 30 pieces of silver.
Indeed, there could be no lucerne grass in which to hide for this repressive mercenary, puppetry lot.
Soon. And very soon.
Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa You can interact with him on Facebook or on the twitter handle @luke_tambo.