Many people have asked Pastor Evan Mawarire why his #ThisFlag videos have been so popular. Many people have asked members of the public what was it they found so appealing about #ThisFlag? In both the Pastor and the public’s varied answers four things have come out:
1. The Pastor talked about bread and butter issues they could relate to in their own lives; his failure to pay his children’s school fees, for example.
2. He talked about economic hardships at the time when the economic hardships are an ever present reality for millions of people given the country’s soaring unemployment rate of 90% plus, the fact that 76% of the people cannot afford even one decent meal a day, etc.
3. He offer simple solutions with a chance of a quick return; “Fire corrupt ministers!” “We want our $15 billion back!” and “Want the 2.2 million jobs!” read some of the twitters doing the rounds.
4. The campaign was conducted within the confines of the 140 maximum twitter character limit making the whole debate exceptionally easy and mind numbingly simple!
Indeed the key to the success of the whole campaign is EASY whether it effective or had any hope of changing anything was never even considered. Zimbabweans have known that corruption was one of the country’s biggest problems for donkey years, for example. They have asked Mugabe to do something about it for all these years but only to see the problem get worse and worse.
In March Mugabe admitted that $15 billion worth of Marange diamond revenue was looted. The country’s GDP is $14 billion. It turns out that the $15 billion the people have been demanding must be paid back, “a big chunk” of it was looted by former VP Mujuru alone according to Minister Kasukuwere which meanings the looting is a lot worse since she is certainly not the only one who has been looting! Looting is a very serious problem indeed.
Neither Pastor Mawarire nor any of his followers expected Mugabe to fire corrupt ministers and thus end the corruption. Even when he has fired the odd corrupt minister, the corruption has surfaced somewhere else; it has been like squeezing a balloon.
After 36 years of this corrupt and tyrannical Zanu PF dictatorship there can be no doubt Pastor Mawarire and even the slow witted ones amongst his followers would have figured out by now that the only way the country would ever get any meaningful economic recovery is by removing Zanu PF from office through free, fair and credible elections. It must be blatantly obvious that the country is stuck with this corrupt, incompetent and tyrannical Mugabe regime.
In other words the Pastor and his followers are calling for Mugabe to fire corrupt ministers because that is easy to do although they know it will yield nothing in terms of economic recovery and alleviating their economic suffering. If they were serious about wanting to end their economic suffering then they would be calling for the implementation of the democratic reforms necessary for free, fair and credible elections, that is more difficult and will take a lot more than the 140 characters to explain.
Throughout the GNU most Zimbabweans heard a lot of talk about the need for MDC to implement the democratic reforms out never bothered to find out what the reforms were and that they were necessary for free, fair and credible elections. Even with the benefit of hindsight of the rigged 2013 elections most people still do not understand that it was MDC’s failure to get even one democratic reform implemented that allowed Mugabe to blatantly rig the 2013 elections.
The reason why Zimbabwe is in this political paralysis and economic mess can be traced to the political and economic choices we have made along the way; we have chosen the easy route time and time again even when it was self-evident there was little or nothing to be gained compared to the more difficult but high yield alternative.
“Zvinokupiyi kuzudza muti mutete asina chirimo!” goes the Shona adage. (What is the point of shaking thin tree if it has no fruit yield!)
So far #ThisFlag’s great appeal was its easy to digest message but providing no nourishment. Unless the hundreds of thousands of #This Flag activists can upgrade their political consciousness to campaigning for free, fair and credible elections and thus stop Zanu PF rigging the next elections then their activism will be judged as just another easy option flash in the pan that in the end changed little!