Why Public Protests Are Now Zimbabwe ‘s Only Hope – By Erasmus Pongo

OPINION - Why Public Protests are Now Zimbabwe's Only Hope - By Erasmus Pongo

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From civil protests in Egypt, 2012; Fiji in 2018, Sudan in 2019, Malawi this week : Is Zimbabwe next? It can be noted that Africans are longing for socio-economic stability and urgent political salvation. Subsequently, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has also threatened to take practical action against the Zanu-PF led government.

In the month of April, 1506 the great Italian polymath Learnardo da Vinci once said,

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence”.

The silence of the oppressed, is a weakness that many governments are using to capture the liberty of their citizens. Since the attainment of independence in Zimbabwe, the government has created a system which suppresses freedom of expression. Nemine contradicentre, here is why public protests are Zimbabwe’s only hope;

The provision of the Constitution of Zimbabwe amendment no. 20 of 2013

The Constitution of Zimbabwe (amendment no. 20, 2013) guarantees freedom of expression and media, but journalist are subject to arbitrary arrest, harassment and intimidation when reporting about protests. The Zanu-PF government has also attempted to introduce rigorous laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) of 2002.

This piece of legislation has helped Zanu-PF to consolidate power and suppress the opinions of the public. The POSA legislation has also given unprecedented power to the securocrats to violently curb any protests by the citizens exempli gratia the August 1, 2018 massacres.

The state broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the state press have also been captured by the Zanu-PF government in an attempt to sanction and restrict freedom of expression. This has caused the state media outlets to be partisan and biased in their operations.

All these acts have been attempts to silence the opinions of the citizens. This silence has elevated and secured the authority and power of the Zanu-PF regime. However, Zimbabweans must consider and realize that the Constitution of Zimbabwe is superior than the Public Order and Security Act, the Securocrats as well as the government itself.

The citizens are protected by the Zimbabwe’s Bill of rights and fundamentally, Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution which gives the right to freedom of expression and freedom of media. Sections 57, 58, 59 and 60 also entail the rights to freedom of assembly and association, freedom to demonstrate and petition as well as freedom of conscience.

It is therefore imperative to realise that street protests are legal and are the only way of expressing the agony of the citizens. Demonstrations are currently the only hope of telling the government and the international community what the citizens are advocating for in their constitutional democracy!

The Socio-Economic Crisis

The socio-economic environment in Zimbabwe is devastating to both local and international communities. The rate of unemployment stands at 97% and the industrial sector is continuously shrinking due to the current economic instability.

Universities in Zimbabwe are producing over 20,000 graduates into a stale and over-flooded labor market. This has resulted in an increase of illegal markets, crimes and social mayhem. Voluminous lives are being lost as the health sector continues to subside. Hospitals are lacking equipment and favorable facilities whilst the medical professionals are being underpaid.

Government Officials who are supposed to fix the mess are unashamedly seeking medical treatment from other countries.

The education sector is at risk as the teachers are performing below par due to poor salaries. Government Officials who are supposed to abate the current predicament are renowned for sending their own off-springs to prestigious schools abroad.

Zimbabwe ‘s critical sectors like Mining and Agriculture are crumbling due to the economic meltdown in the country. The cash crisis and liquidity crunch has remained unabated as the surrogate currency: bondnote/RTGS has continued to lose its value on the market.

Price hikes, electricity cuts, corruption, militarisation of state institutions and poverty have become the main feature of our unitary Republic. Albert Einstein once said “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity”. The patience of the citizens is running out and only a constitutional outcry and street demonstrations seem to be the only way of clearing the nation away from this current predicament.

Public protests are therefore inevitable and seem to be the only way practical to resolve the above mentioned quandary in Zimbabwe!

A path to meaningful dialogue

The Movement for Democratic Change ( MDC ) invited the Zanu-PF to a political dialogue after the controversial 2018 elections . Inversely, Zanu-PF set a condition and it insisted that the talks could only be done when the MDC acknowledge that Emmerson Mnangagwa is the legitimate and constitutionally elected President of Zimbabwe.

This was rejected by the MDC thereby terminating any hope for a political dialogue. However, due to mounting hardships that the nation has faced, Zanu-PF invited Nelson Chamisa to a national dialogue on February 5, 2019. Advocate Nelson Chamisa declined this invitation on February 6, 2019 and submitted 10 conditions that Emmerson Mnangagwa had to comply with prior to any national dialogue.

The conditions included the cessation of all forms of violence by the state, immediate stop of arbitrary arrests, restoration of the judiciary, release of political prisoners, inviting an independent facilitator among others.

The above conditions submitted by the MDC however fell on deaf ears as the Zanu-PF leadership proceeded to have the national dialogue with the 22 losing presidential candidates. The nation has continued to collapse and the citizens have been the major victims.

After all these anomalies that have deterred the MDC and Zanu-PF from coming to the dialogue table, it seems street protests can be a good way of starting more serious talks between the two major political parties.

Only option left

Zimbabweans have two options that lay before them:

(i) Wait for 2023 Presidential elections and in the meantime give Emmerson Mnangagwa a chance to prove his himself or

(ii) Be bold enough to constitutionally express their agony and suffering to the government and the international community through protest.

Zimbabwe has suffered the wounds which were inflicted by Mugabe’s policies since the early ninety’s. The effects of this misgovernance , violation of property rights, human rights abuses, terror, sanctions and economic meltdown required political dialogue soon after the controversial Operation Restore Legacy of November 2017. However, the leaders of the mentioned operation never paved way for a meaningful political dialogue. As a result, the nation plunged into a disputed Presidential Election that has resulted in numerous national problems and socio-economic instability. I

t can therefore be noted hereafter that the elections have failed to be a panacea to the nation’s catastrophe. The political dialogue called by Emmerson Mnangagwa has also failed to yield fruit. This leaves Zimbabwean citizens with no choice but to constitutionally and publicly demonstrate until a fresh roadmap is out in place.

To the MDC:

Shun Violence: The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), you are the main opposition party in the country. Lead the people wisely to act in a constitutional way. Shun violence and desist from public disorder lest the government finds an excuse to make arrests and spill blood. Seek to submit to the rule of law in all your conduct during your protests.

Seek endorsements: Learn from your failed Harare Street Protest of 2018 and the recent failure by the Tajamuka Pressure group. Seek endorsements for your public protests from Trade Unions, Civic Organisations, Social Media Influencers, Religious Representatives, Student Representative Bodies etcetera.

Be a National not a Partisan Movements; Don’t make your protests partisan, but rather make them a national outcry. Let citizens protest regardless of their political party affiliation in your demonstrations. To avoid polarisation and partisan discrimination, avoid party regalia when you assume your public protests.

To the Government: The world is watching!

Protests are a constitutional right and must therefore be respected. Let it be noted that the international media fraternity is closely monitoring any sign of development in Zimbabwe’s economic and political spheres. Zimbabwe is on the spotlight and any attempt to obstruct, deter or hinder citizens from exercising their constitutional rights may be met with negative global response. This may result in trade sanctions, state isolation or external military intervention. It is imperative for you to respect the rights of the citizens of Zimbabwe to freely express themselves through protests.

To Zimbabweans

Unity brings national prosperity and healing. Let those who wish to exercise their constitutional right do so with self-restraint and respect to property rights. The nation cannot change without you, be the actors and builders of your nation. It’s not the time to be divided by religion, gender, ethnicity, tribe or political affiliation. It’s the time to stand together as one to rebuild our nation!

Erasmus Pongo is a Political Analyst as well as an International HR Consultant (Travel, Talent & Employment service). He can be reached at

erasmuspong@gmail.com