When I started my website, it was to be strictly for business. I did not think for one moment I would be posting something of this nature. I did not think I would be posting this even anonymously, so acute and longlasting was the threat of oppression and retribution. But something has changed in the past few days.
I write equestrian novels set in UK, you know that, nice, easy-reading, with small-town problems. But what you mightn’t know is that I was raised in a small landlocked ‘teapot’ of a country in southern Africa called Zimbabwe. I was brought up singing our national anthem, Ishe Komborera (God Bless Africa) at every school assembly. But then in the mid-nineties, when I was in high school, we were handed a leaflet to put in our choir book: a new national anthem called Simudzai Mureza weZimbabwe. It was more of a political chant than an anthem and was perhaps the writing on the wall.
Since the Land Reformation programme in 2000, Zimbabweans of all creed and colour have been struggling to survive. 16 fearful long years under the vicious baton of 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF regime. It took him just 16 years to turn his country from the Bread Basket of Africa into the Basket Case of Africa. It is so poor it no longer has its own currency. It is billions of dollars in debt, yet still Mugabe and his ministers point the finger at the West and blame their mismanagement and violation of human rights on the British and the rest of the western world.
I was one of the lucky few who were able to escape to a better life. Yet, every day, there are Zimbabweans, black and white desperately trying to survive on $1 a day. University graduates forced to work on street corners as hawkers, and even if they do make some money there is a good chance when they go to the shops there will be nothing to spend it on such is the food shortage crisis. Production in the country has ground to a halt, it relies mostly on importing goods, yet a couple of weeks ago the government introduced an import ban, essentially crippling the country entirely.
It was perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back. Zimbabweans are, by nature, a peace-loving people. That is perhaps why it has taken this much abuse for them to stand up to their oppressors. One man in particular has stood up – Pastor Evan Mawarire has been posting videos online of himself wearing the Zimbabwean flag around his neck, accompanied by the hashtag #ThisFlag, urging Zimbabweans to take back their country but peacefully, peacefully, with no violence. After 16 years of huddling in dark corners, wary of speaking out against a corrupt government for fear of reprisal, Zimbabwe has finally found its voice and its courage. Instead of rioting and violence, the country showed their discontent by literally shut down last Wednesday, the 6th of July. People just stayed at home. Imagine that? An entire country going on strike - businesses, big and small, hospitals, courthouses, all closed.
Despite social media ‘coincidentally’ going off grid on the morning of the shutdown, it was so successful that another #ShutdownZimbabwe was arranged for today, the 13th and tomorrow, the 14th of July. President Mugabe wasn’t about to let Pastor Evan get away with liberating his country that easily though. After a failed abduction, Pastor Evan was arrested on the ridiculous charges of inciting violence and disturbing the peace. The last anti-establishment figure to stand up to the government, Itai Dzamara, was abducted last year and hasn’t been seen since. Was this to be the last we saw of Pastor Evan?
It was with amazement and joy that we learnt this evening that Pastor Evan’s case had been chucked out of court and the judge has dismissed the charges. Pastor Evan is free and alive, and in the vigil outside the courthouse came the harrowing tones of Zimbabweans singing their original national anthem, Ishe Komborera.
I am a diaspora, there is little I can do from my small town in England where I now live. I have only social media to raise my voice and show my support for the courageous people living in Zimbabwe who are raising theirs, where the risk of retribution is so much greater. This is a turning point in Zimbabwe’s future yet there has been pathetically little in the media about the uprising.
Remember Cecil? How everyone spoke up together and made a change to hunting laws? Now think of Kupakwashe Mutasa, who died last week during the protests. Riot police fired teargas into her home.
She was one year old.
Not only did police cause her death, but they ignored Kupakwashe’s father’s desperate pleas to help him revive his baby.
You can help by raising your voice too. There are tons of memes and videos on social media, especially those by Pastor Evan Mawarire, for you to share. Just search using the hashtags #ThisFlag and #ShutdownZimbabwe. Show your support of a nation, starving and poverty-stricken, rising up against a dictatorship and taking back their home. Publicise the abuse of human rights that takes place every hour of every day in Zimbabwe.
Don’t let Kupakwashe’s death have been in vain.
Raise your voice for #Kupakwashe. #ThisFlag #ShutdownZimbabwe
Thank you for reading.