A movement driven by poverty in Zimbabwe got ordinary citizens protesting over a bleeding economy, corruption and the government’s disregard for their welfare. This has never happened before, and no political party from a disjointed opposition has the bragging rights.
A cash crisis announced its arrival in May when banks ran out of money. The proposed introduction of a bonded currency that would be valid only in Zimbabwe drew scorn from the public and the business community.
The people call it “Monopoly money” and it’s due on the market in September, despite being rejected.
“When the bond notes arrive, there is a chance we will take to the streets again,” said Simiso Moyo, a cross-border trader. Moyo was at the Beitbridge border when the government banned basic commodities from abroad, particularly South Africa, the source of most imports.
She used to buy in bulk from South Africa for resale at her flea market stall in Bulawayo. She has traded for close to a year since being retrenched.
“There was no way I could get another job. I took the little payout I received and became a trader in the informal sector, like many other Zimbabweans,” she said.
But the recent ban has stolen her newly found livelihood. “The government is putting sanctions on its people. It’s as if they want us to suffer,” she said.
On Thursday, government said that the ban was there to stay and it laid the blame for instigating the riots on unnamed foreign embassies in the country.
Meanwhile, it has struggled to pay salaries. An acute shortage of money in circulation, and hunger and massive corruption involving senior government officials has become a recipe for disaster.
“No amount of oppression can suppress a revolution whose time has arrived. There’s no retreat, no surrender,” said Obert Gutu, spokesperson for the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change.
The discontent can be traced back to December, when Pastor Patrick Mugadza from one of Zimbabwe’s most underdeveloped areas, Binga, did the unthinkable – he led a one-man campaign outside Zanu-PF’s annual conference at Victoria Falls.
Mugadza was detained, harassed and sent to jail.
His bravery gave other men of the cloth a voice. More followed suit until Pastor Evan Mawarire went further. For Mawarire, his dissension was not by design. Frustration crept in when he failed to raise school fees for his two children in April, just before the start of the school term. That is a story shared by most working people in the country.
The modern preacher knew how to reach out to the masses through social media. Using #thisflag, he pioneered a movement largely attributed to the current wave of resistance.
In a passionate video declaring his love for Zimbabwe and its problems, Mawarire gained a large audience.
“Today is another day when citizens continue to shout and scream to their government: enough is enough.”
Then 26-year-old Zanu-PF activist Acie Lumumba left the party after a nasty fight with President Robert Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, a Cabinet minister.
Lumumba joined the angry masses and will go down in history as the man who uttered the “f-word” at Mugabe. He was released on bail of $400 (R5 870).
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya describes the situation as an organic crisis, “where social classes become detached from their traditional parties and a violent overthrow of the ruling classes is possible”.
And instead of reasoning with the angry masses, the government warned: “Those involved in these unruly riots will be severely dealt with,” police spokesperson Commissioner Charity Charamba told City Press.