'Protest leaders must focus on teamwork'

HARARE - Last Wednesday’s nationwide stay-away was successful because it was a “collective thing that involved almost everyone” — followers of Pastor Evans Mawarire, supporters of #Tajamuka, and most importantly ordinary men and women.

Political and social commentators said the recent nationwide stay-away call was not as successful because it was not coordinated inclusively.

They also called on protest leaders to desist from the temptation to call for hasty actions as witnessed by people who ignored Wednesday’s call to stay away from work and close businesses.

Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said organisers should focus on coordinated and inclusive teamwork that has a broader goal of bringing about positive change.

“The first #ZimbabweShutDown was hugely successful because it had many different groups converging to take the authorities by surprise,” Mavhinga said.

“...the government’s vicious response of unleashing police brutality on the masses while at the same time meeting some of the demands of the protestors — including paying some civil servants, may have taken the steam out of the protests. Organisers should emphasise peaceful action whose ultimate goal should not be about meeting immediate demands on salaries, but meeting a bigger goal of political transformation in the country.”

Journalist Reyhana Masters said the most important thing about the first nationwide shutdown was that it was a collective decision that was “driven by numerous players”.

Masters said as for the collective effort of the initial stay-away, she would like to borrow from a post by Pedzisayi Ruhanya on Facebook which read: “A lot of disparate forces with disparate interests but all driven by livelihoods questions”.

Interestingly she said in the days following the success of the stay-away/shutdown, the media placed the spotlight on one person.

“Many people were harassed, assaulted and arrested during and after the stay-away — we don’t know their names nor have we all been asked to support them in the way that there is a rallying call behind Pastor Mawarire,” said Masters.

Mining activist Farai Maguwu said it’s highly risky and potentially futile to put such a huge struggle on the shoulders of individuals.

“This campaign must be organised at local levels in townships, villages, mining communities, and Zimbabweans all over the world must organise themselves wherever they are and shutdown the embassies.”

Maguwu said in future, there is need to engage the public transport industry.

Political commentator Mcdonald Lewanika said organisers need to build linkages and chains of support and collaborative action with other actors.

“The liberation of the suffering masses of Zimbabwe will not be at the hands of one man or one party — it can only be through unity of purpose, collective action and collaborative leadership. That is what they need to work on now,” said Lewanika.

He said in political science, there is what they call the “political opportunity structure”, adding for a protest to be successful, grievance alone is not enough.

Lewanika said the position that the organisers have taken to operate above board and fearlessly is the best way to go.

“They have communicated well online, but they need to do the same on the ground, building relationships and communities of protest that they can rely on when and if they call for mass action.” Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu said the challenges with stay-aways as a form of protest is to sustain them, build the critical mass that has resilience.

“The last stay-away was helped by the confrontational mood that saw people clashing with the police. This time around, the stay-away needed a much more appealing and very personal message to be successful.

“The arrest of the leaders had the effect of slowing down on mobilisation and regardless of the success or limited failure of this stay-away, the message has hit home that the government need to act on the myriad of challenges facing Zimbabwe,” said Mukundu.

Political analyst Blessing Vava said: “The first stay-away was as a result of many factors...And it’s unfortunate that the media and some glory-seekers claimed that action, deliberately ignoring or rather down-playing the influence of these groupings.

“The lessons learnt are that there can be no substitute to organic mobilisation. It cannot and can never be substituted by social media.”

Social analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said: “...a country suffering from high unemployment with virtually no middle class cannot sustain a stay-away. The first part has succeeded in sending the message. The next step is to sit down and re-strategise so that the civil movement gets buy in from politicians who have more sophisticated structures. It is important to approach level two with a clear objective.”

Media analyst Nigel Nyamutumbu said the failure by the generality of Zimbabwean citizens to build on the momentum from last week’s largely heeded call for a mass stay-away can be analysed from various angles.

“Firstly, there wasn’t any direct engagement and coordination with civil servants unions, whose membership notably forms the bulk of the country’s workforce and outside their solidarity, the impact of this week’s stay-away was obviously going to be subdued.

“Secondly, one cannot understate the impact of the escalating threats issued by various senior government officials and statutory regulatory bodies to the effect that individuals seen to be actively participating in these demonstrations...

“Thirdly, the absence of a culture of active citizenry among Zimbabwe’s populace could have also been a contributing factor as increasingly, people are getting more concerned about fending for their nuclear families than they are about their collective responsibility towards sustainable development.”

He added though that more than anything, these citizens’ protests should not be discussed in the context of their success or lack thereof but by the substance of the issues being raised.

“Government should not abscond from the mandate to urgently deal with the socio-economic challenges and in implementing democratic reforms under the guise of the popularity of a demonstration.”

Media practitioner Tabani Moyo said the timing is everything in mobilization work and activism. “The initial one worked well because it coincided with the strike for civil servants who had structures on the ground. Hence part of the mobilization was done by the unions in those sectors.

“The pitfall of the second one is that it was not well communicated as many people only knew of it almost little bit too late. It also tells us that the work of mobilization cannot be complete on social media alone, there is need for organization and coordination in all communities, which calls for the rise of a social movement which coordinates across the breadth of the country.”

Journalist Tonderai Kwindi said there is a plethora of movements cropping up and all of them want to put their voices out there.

“What is needed now is a central command of organisation. People need to speak with one voice and not confuse the generality of the population. Too many messages killed the stay away that had been planned for today and tomorrow.

“It is also important to study the dynamics of food politics and people's mood before calling for these stay ways. A majority of people depend on self-help jobs so constant stay aways that doesn't build any momentum or pressure on the government will be resisted,” said Kwindi.

He added that while people support these actions, they also worry about the next bread and butter. “So most importantly, any action that comes in future should be sustained and organisers must make bigger efforts to find ways of involving the rural populace lest the country will be divided into rurals who purportedly like Mugabe and urbanites who want Mugabe out and that's undesirable situation.”

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.