Editorial: #ThisFlag gives Zimbabwe hope

In a pious moment, Thabo Mbeki, then president and engaged in “quiet diplomacy” in conflict-torn Zimbabwe, said it was up to the people of Zimbabwe to decide on their government and their future. This laudable sentiment was not his alone and was taken up by others and repeated at each stage of Zimbabwe’s decline from breadbasket to basket case.

Of course, Mbeki’s democratic piety was undermined by bias in his diplomacy – he was ostensibly a neutral broker between the ruling party, Zanu-PF, and the chief opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change. But he was also the man who drove the decision to sit on the damning Khampepe Report into the rigging of the 2002 Zimbabwean elections.

Further compromised elections followed the 2008 poll, in which Mugabe came closest to losing power. Mbeki suppressed a report by two South African judges, whom he had sent to evaluate the situation in Zimbabwe, when they reported that, in their view, the conditions for a free and fair election no longer existed there. The South African government then endorsed yet another dodgy election in the country just north of ours.

The people of Zimbabwe tried to remove Mugabe and Zanu-PF by means of the ballot box and found they could not. So it would not be surprising to find that Zimbabweans have lost faith in the apparent democratic process and have decided to find other methods to make their feelings known.

This is what has happened over the past few weeks. Stayaways emptied the streets for days. The immediate causes were the nonpayment of civil servants, the doomed plan to reintroduce the almost-worthless Zimbabwean dollar as the country’s currency and the state’s block on imports. As we report this week, the import restrictions are laughable when border officials are motivated more by bribery than by allegiance to regulations. But that situation is both a sign of the Zimbabwean government’s desperation and the fact that this manoeuvre is unlikely to help the country.


What is most inspiring about the present events in Zimbabwe, however, is that the people are expressing their views about their government and the way it behaves. They have cast off their fear of Mugabe’s heavies for long enough at least to attempt to speak truth to power.

The most memorable image to come out of Zimbabwe recently is that of Pastor Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean flag across his shoulders, giving vent to his frustration with Zanu-PF and Mugabe. Mawarire’s outcry sparked the current wave of protest.

But the operative symbol in that image is not Mawarire. It is the flag. #ThisFlag, the rubric Mawarire used to describe his protest, is now all over the media and is the name of this month’s demonstration of people’s power. It is a significant departure from the “Big Man” politics of Zimbabwe and other African countries.

The people are no longer waiting for another big personality to come and save them from the last saviour – now a destructive force. It is a moment of hope to see Zimbabweans turning to each other in their battle to rescue their nation.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

SAA in talks to recoup R350-million in blocked funds from Zimbabwe

The cash-strapped national carrier is in the process of recouping its blocked funds from Zimbabwe, which could go towards financing the airline’s business rescue plan

Citizens tired of being played for a fool

The use of a South African Air Force jet by ANC officials without the minister following the required procedures is one such case — and more questions arise on examination of that case

Trump win will abort health care

Threats of funding cuts has caused a reduction in reproductive and sexual health services

Civilians need to oversee South Africa’s defence force

ANC officials’ ‘taxi’ ride in an SANDF jet to Zimbabwe is further evidence that more transparency is needed in the military

Inside Zim’s illicit gold mine trade

Desperate people mine the mineral, but it is ‘untouchable big people’, including top state officials, who reap the real benefits

Editorial: Just another insult from the ANC

The ANC’s response to its senior officials’ lockdown trip to Zimbabwe leaves much to be desired
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday