Social Movements have transformed politics in Zimbabwe

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Zimbabweans have mostly relied on political parties and elections to make their preferences known, but recently there has been an upsurge in protests, demonstrations, petitions, campaigns, marches, and organisations that pursue a people’s demand for both social justice and political change.

Citizens now seem to have become less supportive of opposition political parties. Bizarrely, there is at least more than 50 of them attempting to unseat a 37 year old regime notwithstanding a lack of resources for the task. Citizens instead have become more willing to use these non-conventional forms of collective action against an established and authoritarian regime. Toward this end, they seem to have been inspired by events surrounding the Arab Springs in the middle East.

Zimbabwe regularly holds elections whenever they are due, with the winner consequently taking all. On that basis, the current government is, therefore, “legitimate”. This has rendered Zimbabwe’s own version of Arab Springs impossible.

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How then can social movements and activism be called upon to make a difference in Zimbabwe?

Are protests and demonstrations necessary for purposes of producing social and political change in a “democratic” country?

How do they change the life choices of the participants and what legacy could civil disobedience leave on society?

What conditions, and under which social movements can activism produce desired outcomes?

What, if any, is the post movement impact on the lives of former activists? This must be an experience that is different from the collective experience during the campaign.

These and many related  questions are not new, and many may have learnt of these across these on social media.

#thisflag movement and the #tajamuka campaign were regarded by some critics as irrational actions with no instrumental goals whilst some thought the movements’ actions would somehow turn into a revolution that would topple the government of the day.

Well, drawing on human rights, these civic organisations, social movements and lone activists may strengthen democracy in Zimbabwe by engaging in broad based education and advocacy campaigns that target rural areas and various government institutions such the army and the police force. Zimbabwe Yadzoka is one such social movement in Zimbabwe.

There is widespread thinking that some social movements and individual activists might largely be driven by outside influence through inducements such as donor aid. While it is understandable that civil organisations may need moral, financial and political support, it makes their legitimacy questionable, especially when the land question is brought into the equation.

Formidable social movements in Zimbabwe have, however, not ultimately coalesced into a sustained force for social and political change akin to the labour movements of Western Europe which permanently transformed the lives of the working class.

In contrast, Zimbabweans have seen their livelihoods destroyed. Living standards in the country have also deteriorated further, resulting in political repressions and, maybe, virtual anarchy. Farm invasions and displacements also continue unabated.

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Bindura North legislator Kenneth Musanhi said, “I had meetings in my constituency so I decided not to attend.”

Mashonaland Central Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Advocate Martin Dinha said Kasukuwere’s cabal continued to cause disharmony.

Advocate Dinha, who was speaking from Zambia said: “I have been informed that the illegal meeting has flopped and this is not a surprise because the people of Mashonaland Central have rejected Mafios.”

He said Kasukuwere remained unrepentant and wanted to use the Presidential Youth Interface Meetings to manipulate party members.

“Youths who claim to be loyal to Kasukuwere have hijacked preparatory meetings that are being held in the province ahead of President Mugabe’s Youth Interface.

“They are intimidating Members of Parliament, threatening them that we will not be MPs in 2018 if Kasukuwere wins his case. We do not expect this at a time the PC is still in the dock,” said Dinha.

All the party’s provinces, save for Bulawayo, passed votes of no confidence on Kasukuwere after party structures from his home province of Mashonaland Central submitted a petition to the national leadership seeking his ouster.

Following the votes of no confidence, President Mugabe deployed a probe team led by Jacob Francis Mudenda to investigate the allegations.

According to their report to the Politburo, the probe team found Kasukuwere guilty of many of the charges.

The report noted that Kasukuwere was creating shadow MPs in constituencies with sitting legislators, a move believed to be part the alleged plot to topple President Mugabe by planting people loyal to the commissar in key positions. The probe concluded that the province had lost confidence in Kasukuwere, Dickson Mafios, and Wonder Mashange (provincial secretary for administration).

It also emerged that Kasukuwere was excessively interfering with operations of the province as he was improperly signatory to the party’s provincial account.

 

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