Zimbabwe protestors strike, tweet and fight in bid to ‘shut down’ country
Thousands of Zimbabweans flooded social media to voice their frustration at the government’s inability to turn around the economy amid calls for a nationwide stay-at-home day on Wednesday.
The proposed Wednesday walkout, branded #ShutdownZimbabwe on Twitter, was organised in part by Pastor Evan Mawarire, who launched a Twitter campaign #ThisFlag in April to apply pressure to the government to address the country’s economic crisis.
Zimbabwe is battling its worst drought in a quarter of a century, while the economy is beset by cash shortages, prompting small, spontaneous protests over the past month. Monday’s protests were the first to turn violent since 2005.
“When we started the campaign against corruption and injustice the government laughed off the campaign saying it was only gaining traction from the diaspora but it has paid off,” he said.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) backed the protests calling for Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s government to resign.
“Zimbabweans reserve their right to petition and demonstrate peacefully,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu told journalists in Harare.
“We in the MDC support any sector that is embarking in peaceful demonstrations.
“As a party, we urge all our members to join any legitimate demonstration that is meant to bring pressure on this regime.”
The country has been rocked by violent protests that began on Friday in Beitbridge, which lies on the border with South Africa where traders blockaded the crossing in protest at a government ban on the importation of basic commodities as the country seeks to plug foreign currency leakages.
Protests spread on Monday to the capital Harare where police violently put down a demonstration by taxi drivers who accuse officers of demanding bribes.
The demonstrations come amid mounting anger from public sector workers furious at unpaid June salaries.
Doctors walked out of work on Saturday and were followed by teachers and nurses on Tuesday.
Stephen Chan, professor of International Relations at SOAS, University of London, said: “There are no major powers who are going to ride in and help. Zimbabwe: you are on your own.”
“We are heading towards a recession and most likely a depression, with massive deindustrialisation,” said former Zimbabwean minister of finance Tendai Biti.
“We are a divided nation; politics has become balkanised. We risk implosion from citizens who are hungry or angry or from factions within ZANU PF whose only language of mediation is political violence.”