By Fungai Chiposi
Almost everyone including the internet activists themselves, view internet activism with great derision. Remarks like, “hiding behind keyboards” and “come to the ground” are thrown about with a huge amount of carelessness. It seems as if internet activism is practised by the lowest form of humanity worthy of derision, scorn and suspicion. Indeed, a friend once remarked that, internet activists are the reason Zimbabwe is where it is.
Zimbabweans in the diaspora are also given the same attitude by those “on the ground.” First and foremost, accusations of cowards are mumbled in undertones. The cowards ran away from the problems at home. They must enjoy their lives there and should not be telling us what to do. How dare they say that or this about this or that leader? They have no right!
It is time to tell each other the truth. There is no Zimbabwean holier, more relevant nor more important than the other. We are all equal homo sapiens inter-connected in our suffering and need. The fact that some of us like running in the streets and others like baring their souls on the internet, is not a differentiating factor but unifying factor. The fact that some are on the ground and others in the diaspora is a unifying factor.
We are all confronted by a rabid and voluminous dictatorship that induces different levels of fear in everyone. Everyone. Speaking up on the internet is bold, very bold. There is a record there for eternity especially if someone takes a screenshot. You can run in the street and no one will even know you were there. Either “on the ground” or online, one can easily be arrested by this regime.
Zimbabweans in the diaspora are contributing almost 3 billion dollars annually to our economy. They single-handedly carried us through 2008. They have families and friends who are affected daily by the actions of the regime (bond notes caused great heartache for all). Indeed, they all collectively spend sleepless nights worrying about the situation at home. This is over and above the fact that it is not easy to be a second class citizen. Everyone wants the comfort of familiar surroundings with friends and family. Some are foraging in icy temperatures they are not used to at all.
“On the ground,” the bucket of poverty is enveloping everyone. Potholes everywhere even in Borrowdale. Prices of all products are rising. Everyone has a bond in his pocket. Data price increases made everyone go nuts and that axe is still hanging over us, sooner or later it shall fall. Recently there were reports that there is faecal matter in our water. It is inevitable that we shall all be affected. We can therefore not afford to have a “them and us” mentality amongst those fighting for a better Zimbabwe. There is no one uniquely qualified to bring it about alone.
Before we denigrate internet activists, let us remember the Arab spring and also Pastor Evan Mawarire. The glue that united those actions was actually the internet. The level of awareness achieved via the internet in both cases led to overwhelming activity on the ground. A coordinated structured approach will achieve astounding results.
Almost 6.6 million Zimbabweans “on the ground” have cellphones. It is reasonable to assume that at least 50% of those have WhatsApp enabled phones and some kind of access to the internet. If we stop denigrating each other and focus resolutely on a target action, a million people can be reached. If half of that number is convinced to come onto the street, we can overwhelm the oppressive state machinery and register our voice. Using WhatsApp is far safer than running around the streets pasting posters onto electric poles.
We all need each other. Just like every road leads to Rome, every activity can take us to the desired destination, if we set a target. One person with a phone can reach an average of 200 contacts. That person can reach those people whether in Zimbabwe or from the diaspora. In a struggle such as ours, every hoe has a fallow to tend. Let’s give a standing ovation to the activist “on the ground”, the online activist and in the concerned diaspora activist.
We are together. Tiri tose. Sisonke.
Aluta Citizen Aluta.
Citizen Fungai Chiposi, Mr.
Fungai Chiposi is a Community Development Activist who sometimes marches “on the ground” and loves to stay behind his keyboard. He can be reached on Facebook, Twitter and “on the ground.”