Zimbabwe is back in the lenses of world scrutiny as short-lived turmoil engulfed the country. For two weeks, some workers staged what they desired to be a lock-down of the country by striking to express their discontent with unpaid public-sector wages, proliferating corruption, declining living standards and police injustice. A closer look at the Cyber-activists shows an ensemble of the same old disorganised forces only rearranged and rejuvenated by a new catchment of impressionable followers.
Spurred on by Pastor Evan Mawarire, the founder of the #This Flag, many disgruntled Zimbabweans, particularly urban young people, have found solace and battle ground in social media, venting their frustration at the deplorable living conditions in the country. Admittedly, the Zimbabwe economy has virtually collapsed, while disease and starvation are ravaging Zimbabweans.
Hopelessness and despair characterize and define the national psyche.
However, the juvenilia approach to the Zimbabwe situation through elementary politics is not helpful. Past attempts at lockdowns organized by the opposition flopped and it is not rocket science to believe that future attempts will fail drastically for the simple reason that an elementary political approach is not sustainable because it does not provide a strong organizational framework, an ideology, a manifesto, a leadership structure, etc. That is the weakest link of most civil movements. The absurdity of it all is that the name of this revolution in the tea-cup is #This Flag; its cause is #This Flag; its ideology, #This Flag; its manifesto #This Flag; its membership #This Flag; its leader #This Flag; everything about it is #This Flag with the weak opposition leaders in the background. This is not to deny the role played by social media revolution during the Arab Spring. The factors on the ground are not the same.
Simply put, the Arab spring revolved around the support of the military. The pivotal role of the military in times of civil unrest is crucial. Is this possible in Zimbabwe? The answer is a simple no mainly because even though the military and astute politicians are aware of the tough living conditions in the country, they also realise that corruption, mismanagement and economic decline cannot solely be blamed on the government.
A paraphernalia of factors, including an external agenda, are responsible for the economic decay and deplorable living conditions in the country.
It is only in Zimbabwe where resident diplomats partake in local civil disobediences. The presence of diplomats at the #This Flag demonstrations and court hearing speaks volumes about the composition of the #This Flag members and leaders. The EFF and other opposition parties have staged many demonstrations, including at court hearings, against the South African government, yet no resident diplomat has ever attended any of those demonstrations. We have had demonstration here at home with no participation from resident diplomats. An external involvement in the Zimbabwe discourse does more harm than good and only helps to entrench the status quo.
Such shenanigans continue to undermine the little credence and political clout that the opposition needs to be seen as having a home-grown agenda. The uninformed and reckless foreign policy positions of some countries towards Zimbabwe and in favour of the opposition negatively impacts the national interest of common Zimbabweans who are the ultimate victims.
Arthur Mutambara, one of the founders of the opposition MDC summed up this hypocricy as follows: “As we exited 2008, in the month of December, there was a crescendo of demands for the departure of Mugabe from the political stage. There is nothing new and creative in this Mugabe must go mantra. The trouble is that many people and institutions on this track suffer from the disease of the heart being in the right place, while the mind is not being applied. One needs both a good heart and a good mind. Some of us have been singing the Mugabe must go mantra for the past 21 years, to no avail. Incidentally, Western governments disagreed with us in 1988 when we turned against the ZANU-PF regime. Now they patronize us, as if they understand why Mugabe must go, better than us, his Zimbabwean victims. We have been fighting Mugabe for two decades, where have you been America and Europe? Why did you support Mugabe in the late 80’s when we were opposing him? Why did you actively back him during Gukurahundi? We never heard you say Mugabe must go during that period. Instead you gave him prestigious awards on both sides of the Atlantic.
We can understand it if your defense is that you are slow learners and late bloomers where our matters are concerned. We can accept that. But it then also means you must take your cue from us who understand the Zimbabwean terrain better. You must accept that you are essentially ignorant, unstrategic, and hence ineffective where African matters are concerned. While you seek to assist us in our struggles for change, your brazen behaviour effectively undermines us and strengthens our opponents. You must listen to us and not the other way round.”
While external players and events affect Zimbabwe, it is important that Zimbabweans take responsibility for the future of the country. They should be at the center of the struggle to rebuild the country and undertake sustainable nation building steps to ensure unity of action and purpose.
Zimbabweans should be the masters of their own destiny, a destiny defined by Zimbabweans for Zimbabweans. A well-thought-out and pragmatic approach is required to return Zimbabwe to economic stability.
• Dr Charles Mubita holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Southern California.