In the recent past, Zimbabweans have gained voices and are fighting for their rights today more than ever before, calling on the government to take action to resolve the falling economy.
From the Harare cleric who in May started a social media movement dubbed #thisflag to widespread street demonstrations in towns across the South African country, people have come up broadly to criticize the government that has been in power for almost four decades.
Gone are the days when Zimbabweans suffered in silence. Since the 2008 election which was highly contested in the hope of finally removing the then, 84-year-old President Robert Mugabe, more and more citizens have found hope in airing out their views on the current regime.
In a show of contempt for the government, on Wednesday (July 7), a number of protestors mobilized and succeeded in shutting down the main cities in what was seen as the bold and wide-spread demonstration.
In a bid to contain the demonstrations, the Zimbabwe government blocked the WhatsApp service to its citizens as the country’s workers observed the ‘national shutdown’ to put pressure on the government, that has failed to pay civil servants.
Dumisani Nkomo, spokesman for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the demonstration is “a sign of economic collapse which has left people with nothing more to sacrifice and nothing to lose.” He was speaking to AFP. “We are heading towards a tipping point as a country, where citizens will express their pain by any means,” he added.
There has been unrest over the country’s failing economy with a currency shortage which has led to restrictions on imports, and extortion by policemen on roads.
Zimbabwe is facing the worst economic meltdown which has been made worse by a severe drought affecting the agricultural sector.
At least 80 percent of the Zimbabwean’s revenue is spent on state workers’ wages according to officials, while about 90 percent of the population is out of formal employment.
The Wednesday strike left streets in the capital city of Harare deserted while youth in the outskirts of the city obstructed roads, leading to a running battle with the police. Motivated to stop the word of the strikes spreading, the government reportedly blocked WhatsApp throughout the country. People could not send or receive WhatsApp messages via a mobile network or wifi, African News Agency reported.
Of course, this did not in any way deter the agitated citizenry. Using secure VPN services, Zimbabweans quickly embarked on distributing information about the strike.
The strike not only paralyzed work but education too. With teachers failing to turn up to work, school going children had no option, but to head back home in the wake of the demonstrations.
The government, however, denied cutting off the communication services blaming it on the network problem, instead. According to the minister for information, communication technology, and courier Services Supa Mandiwanzira, the government had no reason to ban or block the use of the service because of a few individuals who abused the platform, Mail and Guardian said.
He argued that the government was actually trying not to give in to demands by the mobile operators to ban the platform and others such as Viber and Skype, which they believed were losing them revenue.
“I as a minister and on behalf of the government have resisted these demands because we see their value to Zimbabweans. So there is no basis that I as minister or government will work up to ban them when we are on the forefront of denying the request by operators,” he said.
“We know there are elements, very few of them, who abuse the platform but they must not be allowed to spoil its very good use by the majority of citizens,” he added.
Ban or no ban, a government can only suppress its citizen for so long. Eventually, they will always find a way to express themselves to the rest of the world.
Image credit: www.newsday.co.zw