“Fellow citizens – Wednesday 6th July 2016, we are shutting down Zimbabwe…we have decided to act. Citizens I want to invite you to do something to help save this country…We love Zimbabwe too much to keep watching it burn…Enough is enough!” – Evan Mawarire
I’m part of the group they call the “born-frees” – everyone who came after the triumphant victory against the ‘pink-noses’. Vasina mabvi. We were born into ‘freedom’. Freedom was supposedly waiting for us outside of the womb, Zimbabwe holding its arms open wide, ready to embrace us and carry us into our bright futures. And so began my love affair with my country. Our generation was to throw whiteness into the pit of Lucifer from whence it came and proudly declare our allegiance to the state and the man who engulfed it, and march into the promised land, singing songs of liberty.
We were the 90s babies. The ones who came out kicking and screaming when the big bad IMF had our economy in the palm of its hands, ‘socialism’ forgotten. The ones that were too young to remember or understand the food riots of ’98, who grew up hearing songs that likened British Prime Ministers to blair toilets and singing the praises of the man who was going to finally get our land back from the evil whites. We were the ones that were too young to remember or truly understand the violence and the politicking until much later. We were the ones that were going to benefit from the land taking and the election rigging (which was for the good of the nation of course), and the ‘cleaning up of the filth’ of the informal economy actors, the constant-loan taking and the DRC war-fighting and the excellent better-than-anywhere education we’d been given. We were going to eat the fruit of the regime that cared for nothing more than our well-being and our ownership of the land and resources they had fought so hard for. Well, supposedly.
“A nation can win freedom without its people being free” – Joshua Nkomo
A few dubious election results, a failed currency and a million march later, and here we are. The born-frees are largely unemployed, either hopelessly apathetic or violently loyal to the ruling party and generally uncertain of their futures. Us 90s babies are babies no more, and we’re faced with the harsh reality of adulthood and a failed relationship with the state. Needless to say, my love affair was short-lived, and it was only recently that the flames of the passion I have for my home were rekindled.
I remember reading about Pastor Evan and seeing a few of the #ThisFlag campaign photos from Zimbabweans around the world. Each photo and video told a story about my country’s flag, and how it represents us all. They told stories of the pain of being led by leaders who cared less for development and more for their personal enrichment. Corruption scandals all around, a collapsing health system, a dying economy and a brutalised people. Zimbabweans were tired of the lies, the cringe-worthy propaganda and the belittling of their struggles. The more tweets and posts I read, the angrier I got. My familial proximity to the violent system of the ruling party didn’t help either. The thick clouds of citizens’ disappointments, exhaustion and frustration finally burst, and it started to rain. What started as a peaceful protest and shutdown in Beitbridge on 1 July following the implementation of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2014, culminated in the razing of a ZIMRA warehouse and the looting of nearby shops. In Harare, kombi operators in Epworth, Ruwa, Zimre Park, Hatfield and Mabvuku/Tafara refused to operate, and barricaded roads leading out of the areas. Riot police officers were deployed in these areas and clashed with the operators and other residents who had joined in. My heart began to open. My anger turned to concern for my people, and my desire to dismantle the system that oppressed us, grew. When Pastor Evan was arrested, my heart broke again. But the scene of scores of Zimbabweans singing, praying and dancing outside the court-house gave me a feeling I can’t fully explain. It was like a release – all the love and admiration I had for my country and people who had been suppressed by decades of violence came gushing out of me. Salty tears streamed down my face as I saw what was the greatest display of unity and love that I’d seen in a long time.
Now we can sit and debate about how effective social media campaigns are in sparking a revolution throughout the country, but what I’m explaining here is the revolution in my heart. I know that there is work to be done and I know that our country needs more than hashtags and struggle songs to fix the myriad of things that have gone wrong. I know it takes dedication and passion and strategising and patience. And I know that I am fully prepared to play my part in fighting for the country that we deserve. A country that was fought for to make everyone’s life better.
My heart is open, my mind tuned in to the sounds of my people’s voices. I love Zimbabwe too much to keep watching it burn. Thank you to #ThisFlag and the wonderful people who have taken ownership of this message.
Now the work begins. Tichakunda. Hatichada, hatichatya.