Planned shut­down to win bat­tle against cor­rup­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - UFRIEDA HO

AC­CI­DEN­TAL ac­tivist Evan Mawarire, the man be­hind the #ThisFlag cam­paign in Zim­babwe, said the next step in the bat­tle against cor­rup­tion, in­jus­tice and poverty was their planned two-day shut­down on Wed­nes­day and Thursday.

Speak­ing from a safe house in Harare yes­ter­day, he said he was over­joyed at the “si­lent state­ment” of or­di­nary Zim­bab­weans who made the shut­down cam­paign on Wed­nes­day a tri­umph.

At the heart of the cam- paign are three de­mands, in­clud­ing an end to cor­rup­tion, in­jus­tice and poverty.

Among the is­sues are the prompt pay­ment of civil ser­vants, the re­moval of po­lice road blocks, the scrap­ping of pro­posed in­tro­duc­tion of bond notes, and the scrap­ping of the im­port ban.

“I never thought I would be some­one liv­ing from safe house to safe house like I am now, and I still don’t think of my­self as an ac­tivist.

“It started as some­thing of a per­sonal strug­gle, but it got to a point where I re­alised that there was no­body will­ing to do what I did with­out get­ting paid.

“That’s when I made and posted that first YouTube video days af­ter Zim­babwe’s In­de­pen­dence Day on April 20,” he said.

Within days of his im­pas­sioned speech, his YouTube video had well over 100 000 views. Peo­ple re­sponded in their hun­dreds, post­ing self­ies with the Zim­bab­wean flag un­der the #ThisFlag hash­tag.

The gov­ern­ment was caught off guard with­out ef­fec­tive ways to clamp down on the spread of in­for­ma­tion.

Even with news on Wed­nes­day morn­ing of dis­rup­tions in mes­sag­ing ser­vices like What­sapp be­ing blocked, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­posted links and in­struc­tions to use al­ter­na­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools.

“We want our coun­try back. We want to re­claim our Zim­babwe. Zim­babwe is ready for a new gen­er­a­tion of rulers and lead­ers.

“I want a coun­try that is built on fresh ideas, ideas that can be chal­lenged, de­bated and de­vel­oped. I be­lieve peo­ple will rise, they will stop be­ing fear- ful be­cause enough is enough,” Mawarire said.

Now that the mo­men­tum has started, Mawarire said he was not about to back down. But he doesn’t sup­port a vi­o­lent ap­proach.

“We can­not fight this bat­tle with vi­o­lence, be­cause we can­not teach our chil­dren that vi­o­lence is a so­lu­tion. If we turn to vi­o­lence, I will walk away,” he said.

For now, he said, he would stand, wav­ing his flag silently, trust­ing “that good winds ev­ery­where will carry my mes­sage to where it will be heard”.

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