Zim flag: A symbol of defiance

HARARE - Once a symbol of pride and patriotism, the country’s multi-coloured flag has suddenly become a sign of resistance, as a fed up citizen drapes it to protest the worsening economic situation.

Ironically, President Robert Mugabe’s administration has taken offence.

A little-known cleric Evan Mawarire inspired many with his #Thisflag campaign as he reflected on the true meaning of the colours of the flag something that has earned him fame and of course notoriety from the establishment.

The white on the country’s flag stands for peace and progress, yet there is no peace as people protest weekly, the green represents the country’s fertile land and green vegetation, yet people are faced with hunger each year and live on handouts.

And the yellow stands for mineral wealth, yet there is a lot of controversy surrounding the use and abuse of the revenue from minerals.

Of course there is the colour red which symbolises the blood that was shed in Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence and now even those who watched comrades perish during the war are questioning whether their beloved ones died in vain.

These colours are what started it all, as Zimbabweans reflected on whether they are a living testimony of the gains brought by the new flag.

In 1980, when the country got its independence from its former colonisers, the British, the flag signified the promises of a new, free and prosperous Zimbabwe, the land of “milk and honey, the promised land”.

Fast-forward 36 years after the independence, Zimbabweans carry the same flag, seeking a new dispensation.

Through the use of the flag, Zimbabweans are now seeking “liberation from their liberators”.

Flags have run out in shops around the country as Zimbabweans take charge and use them to show government their displeasure.

It is against the meaning of the flag colours that the true identity of Zimbabweans was formulated, creating a sense of pride and ownership.

But as the country continues experiencing growing dissent against Mugabe’s rule, a new meaning has been ascribed to the Zimbabwean flag.

More and more Zimbabweans begin to appreciate the meaning of the flag against the prevailing situation, making the national emblem a “weapon” for bringing the government to account.

Since Mawarire began his #ThisFlag movement, the Zimbabwean flag has become a symbol of the people’s struggles for a corrupt free Zimbabwe and the battle for a new leadership. Through the movement, Mawarire uses the flag to demand answers from the government based on its colours.

In one of his first videos that he posted on social media, Mawarire questions the government on the proceeds of the minerals that are represented by the yellow colour on the flag. He demands the answers on the green vegetation that is being represented by the green colour.

The demand for answers created a new wave of “rebellion” among the local and foreign-based citizens.

Mugabe, who has been the country’s only leader since independence, has been accused of running down the country.

Currently, the country is battling an over 85 percent unemployment rate, which has driven several young Zimbabweans to foreign countries in search of greener pastures.

As the country continues facing a myriad of problems that include cash shortages, high unemployment levels, corruption and a host of other problems, the flag began to be used as a protesting symbol.

Amid this suffering and Mugabe’s inability to create new economic avenues, there is growing dissent from the citizens, which has resulted in a wave of protests sweeping across the country.

With his #ThisFlag campaign, Mawarire managed to command a huge following from Zimbabweans dotted across the world, who embraced the idea of confronting the government through the use of the flag.

As the discontent among citizens keeps on growing, new non-partisan protesters have emerged in the form of churches, #Tajamuka/Sesjikile, vendor association groups, students and graduates.

What is synonymous with these groups is that they use the national flag in most of their demonstrations across the country, making it a universal tool of resistance.

Before the #ThisFlag movement, ordinary citizens were only seen with the flag during football matches where the national team was playing against other countries.

Besides such occasions, only government officials were seen with tags of the national flag pinned on their jackets, as a sign of patriotism and general allegiance to the country.

With Zimbabwe being a highly politicised society, the flag meant more than just patriotism but it went further to act as a symbol of showing that one is behind the ruling Zanu PF government.

Through that culture of partisan patriotism, the flag became a sacred piece of cloth that went beyond its deeper meaning.

Only recently, Zimbabwean Parliament business was brought to a standstill for nearly 45 minutes after three MDC MPs, Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North), Trevor Saruwaka (Mutasa Central) and Unganai Tarusenga (St Mary’s), turned up during the question-and-answer session with Zimbabwean flags hung on their shoulders.

Zanu PF Buhera West MP Oliver Mandipaka raised a point of order, accusing the MPs of siding with Mawarire.

The speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda ordered them to leave but they refused, resulting in commotion, which only subsided after they placed their flags under their seats.

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