#ThisFlag: Zimbabwe’s fight against corruption, injustice, and poverty

Months of turmoil and civil unrest in Zimbabwe culminated in a peaceful, united stand against corruption, injustice, and poverty last July 6.

A number of anti-government protests and riots have flooded the country due to economic collapse and perceived political impunity. It is said that Zimbabwe’s financial resources have almost dried up that even government employees have not yet received their wages.

Recently, with the government cash-strapped, most of the prisoners have been released and wildlife from the national game reserves have been sold.

Image source: newsday.co.zw

Even the local currency had been beset by runaway inflation that the citizens are using foreign currency for transactions. With an unnerving 90 percent of the population technically unemployed – most are poor farmers or informal laborers – the public outcry for the government, led by the 92-year-old Robert Mugabe for 36 years, to step down had grown more resounding by the day.

More Zimbabweans joined the protest movement in April, when outspoken pastor Ewan Mawarire uploaded a YouTube video denouncing the corruption in the government, while draped in the flag of Zimbabwe. The video has been watched hundreds of thousands of times and jumpstarted the #ThisFlag movement.

Social media, particularly the messaging app WhatsApp, have been instrumental in the organization and mobilization of the protests. As a result, the government have cracked down hard on social media, even issuing public notices that users were being closely monitored. Approximately a hundred people had been arrested for “instigating criminality.”

Image source: mahkuwa.co.zw

On July 4, violent clashes occurred between the police force and taxi drivers who were decrying harassment. The police also had to respond with deadly force after public transportation workers who were rallying for delayed salaries threw stones and burned tires in the two of the biggest cities in Zimbabwe.

With violence seemingly reaching its peak, organizers, leading activists, and union leaders decided to take a more peaceful and more meaningful approach to the demonstration. July 6, 2016 saw one of the biggest stay-away actions in the country for quite a long time. People were told to stay home to show solidarity, leading to a shutdown of almost all businesses, schools, and hospitals in various cities, including in the capital city, Harare.

A local electric shop worker illustrated it best when he told a news agency, “I can’t go to work when the rest of the country is not going to work. Life is tough and we need to show the government that we have been stretched to the limit.”

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