By Patson Dzamara
The unprecedented rise of the citizens’ movement in Zimbabwe gave ordinary citizens a loud and bold voice.
After the disbanding of the GNU and the 2013 elections, Itai Dzamara was the first citizen to boldly stand up, speak out and act against ZANU PF’s failure to run the affairs of the country. He started Occupy Africa Unity Square which was ushered in by his petition to Mr. Mugabe, calling on him to step down.
That marked the beginning of the citizens’ movement, foreshadowing the tumultuous events of 2016. Eventually, Itai was abducted as a result of his resolute stance against ZANU PF’s leadership failure and misrule. This left me with no option other than to fight. I was forced to fight for justice over my brother’s abduction and also to continue with his work. To this day, that struggle continues.
Along the way other campaigns such as #Tajamuka, #ThisGown and #ThisFlag were birthed, adding their voices and growing the citizen’s movement. From the onset, I stated that I am a member of each and every campaign and I have plugged into almost all these citizens campaigns without necessarily being invited or assuming any leadership positions.
As we move forward, cognisant of the fact that we have managed to inspire ordinary citizens to speak up, our job is not complete without encouraging the citizens to act. Speaking alone is not enough without commensurate action.
For instance, when #ThisFlag was birthed, ordinary citizens were inspired to speak up. However we knew that speaking up on its own was not going to be the alpha and omega of our quest for a better Zimbabwe. I consistently stated that without a commensurate offline process (action on the ground) underpinning the online process (protesting and criticising, dialoguing and highlighting issues) we would never reach the projected endgame zone.
In an article, which was published on Nehanda Radio on the 21st of May, 2016 (http://nehandaradio.com/2016/
“ThisFlag is not the Alpha and Omega in so far as the panacea thread to our multi-faceted and deeply entrenched problems is concerned but it’s a good and major step towards the solution.
“A hybrid of challenges we face certainly calls for a multi-pronged approach and response. Watering a dead log won’t bring it to life neither does flogging a dead horse culminate in its resurrection.
“Ladies and gentlemen, most of these individuals we are cajoled to refer to as leaders and directing our complaints to have already artificially raptured themselves into the dead logs or horses zone.
There is nothing much to expect from them other than disposing them. Chances are very high that they won’t even bother to pay attention to our frustration and vending.
“That brings us to a critical curve, the endgame curve. In the endgame zone, an amalgamation of both online and offline tactics is what will help us to dispose these dead logs and horses. The endgame is an amalgamation of both online and offline tactics.”
We embarked on the 16 days of Occupying Africa Unity Square on the 1st of June, 2016 as a coalition of citizens from different campaigns. A group of citizens were to spend all the 16 days of the campaign camping (day and night) in Africa Unity Square protesting against the government over a number of issues. Before we could finish the protest, we were arrested and we spent days at remand prison.
While we were in prison, #Tajamuka was launched. #Tajamuka essentially filled in the action gap, the campaign is action oriented. In 2016, #Tajamuka and other campaigns such as #MunhuWeseMuroad carried out several protests across the country. I participated in almost all.
As we seek to address the spiralling political, economic and social challenges bedevilling our nation it is imperative for us to lean on the lessons learnt since 2014. Chief among the lessons learnt, is that there is no substitute for action. Talking alone is never enough.
In the wake of the humanitarian crisis we find ourselves in, as a result of the typhoid outbreak and floods among other challenges, citizens must not only assume a posture of voicing protest, they must act too. We must and shall continue escalating on the ground protests without fail but we must also address our challenges in a pragmatic way.
We are facing real challenges which require real solutions. The job to address these challenges is not only reserved for the politician or government official, it is the duty of every citizen to collectively tackle these challenges. It is not a politician’s or a government official’s job to stop littering, it is every citizen’s job. When we litter, our drainage systems are affected and that causes flooding when rain pours. It is not a politician’s or a government official’s job to cut long grass at people’s homes. It is not a politician’s job to wash your hands before you eat.
Admittedly, our government has exposed us to perennial failures but everything does not start and end with them. In fact, they are whatever we allow them to be. So, it starts and ends with us.
It is our responsibility to create the Zimbabwe we want. We must not just talk, we must act.
I witnessed something in Harare’s CBD two days ago which left me awestruck and inspired. Indeed there is hope for Zimbabwe.
Soon after a heavy downpour of rain, the roads were flooded, making it hard for pedestrians and motorists to navigate their way. While everyone was grappling to make their way to wherever they were going, two gentlemen decided to act. They obtained a stick which they used to remove litter from blocking water to flow into the drainage.
That is what I am talking about. Those are more honourable and responsible citizens than those who just complain, blame and criticise. I am in no way justifying our government’s failure to own up to its responsibilities but we can’t just complain about everything while we do nothing. Imagine what will happen if all citizens assume the same action posture! The results will be phenomenal.
We must act and effect the change we want to see in our nation, communities, neighbourhoods and even at our work stations.
We owe a better Zimbabwe to ourselves and what I witnessed today emboldened my anticipation for a better Zimbabwe. If we roll up our sleeves and get to work, there is hope for a better Zimbabwe. A new and better Zimbabwe is possible in our lifetime.
(Patson Dzamara is a pro democracy activist, leadership coach and author, and conference speaker based in Zimbabwe)