Zanu PF panics over pastor’s #ThisFlag campaign

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HARARE – There are growing fears within Zanu PF that #ThisFlag campaign by cleric Evan Mawarire could incite long-suffering Zimbabweans to revolt Arab Spring-style, and spell the end of President Robert Mugabe’s 36-year-old rule.

Apparently petrified of falling in the way regimes in the Arab world were dethroned, Zanu PF has launched its counter #OurFlag campaign, in what observers say is a sign that the governing party is scared stiff.

The social media movement dubbed #ThisFlag was started this month by Mawarire and has attracted deep traction in Zimbabwe, as thousands of citizens have joined the campaign that speaks to the supposed failures of Mugabe’s administration.

The movement has a tag line “Hatichada and Hatichatya” (we have had enough and we are not afraid anymore), as Zimbabweans say they are no longer afraid to speak about misgovernance by the Mugabe regime.

Initially, the campaign, which encouraged citizens to carry the national flag, was supposed to run for seven days but it has now extended to 25 days until May 25, Africa Day, as more people join the movement to get the country’s ruling elite to admit they have failed.

Mawarire told the Daily News on Sunday that one of Mugabe’s ministers called him asking why he was engaging citizens on governance issues and accused him of being a puppet of the West.

“I said are you kidding me. It’s my right to talk to my fellow citizens, kuti zvaipa vakomana toita sei (things have gone horribly wrong, what can we do?),” Mawarire said.

He accused government of taking Zimbabweans for granted by paying lip service to issues that are afflicting them.

“People are not stupid, this is one thing government needs to understand. We can start as many hash tags we want, the issues remain the issues. You can come up with a counter move and all you want, government can play all these games and all they want but the citizens have had enough, we are now fed up with these games.

“Munhu haafidwe ne (People are not fed with) hashtag campaign, the hospital issues, the issues remain the issues.

“One of the ministers came up to me and said you are being funded by the West and I said, ‘when are you going to mature? You don’t fund entrepreneurs, you don’t fund health, you don’t fund infrastructure, you don’t fund elderly citizens, you are not funding anything from anyone, so tofa nenzara? (must we starve) just because you are saying musatora mari kubva kuvarungu (Do not get funding from the West)’.”

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Mawarire further accused Mugabe’s government of instilling fear in citizens “to cover up for their corruption.”

“They have taken from citizens without shame for years and now they are afraid that people will find out and demand for them to be brought to book. And you try to shut people up.”

He said the response the movement got from citizens was proof that people had indeed had enough of suffering at their hands.

“The movement stands for the inclusion of the citizens of Zimbabwe to speak into matters that build the country. What it’s about is to strengthen the voice of the citizen, is to teach citizens to stand up and to speak, and stand up and get involved. A key component is to stand up and not be afraid anymore, which for me is an emphasis because we have been afraid, it’s no secret.

“Government doesn’t get it all. This government and any other government to come must be accountable to its citizens,” Mawarire added.

In a bid to counter #ThisFlag campaign, Zanu PF has started advertising its own #OurFlag campaign on social media as well as on radio.

One of the adverts that has been running since Wednesday night has been incorporated into the planned Zanu PF youth league’s “one million-man” march to prop up Mugabe, scheduled for next week.

“Let’s join the youths and go and march in solidarity with the visionary iconic leadership of our president,” the Zanu PF campaign voice over of the advert says.

“Let’s wave ‘Our Flag’ high and unite and join the one million-man march on Africa Day.”

In another move, two opposition MDC MPs, Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North) and Eric Murai (Highfiled) were on Wednesday ejected from Parliament by speaker Jacob Mudenda for putting national flags round their necks.

This was after Zanu PF Zvimba West MP Ziyambi Ziyambi had raised a point of order protesting against the move he said was an attempt by the legislators “to belittle this country”.

Mudenda responded by ordering the duo to put the flags down saying “this is a Zimbabwean flag, just put it down.”

“Just place it down. I said place the Zimbabwean flag down. We have to treat it with some respect,” Mudenda fumed.

He made the ruling amid protests from the MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese on a point of privilege arguing that some Zanu PF MPs had flags on their suits.

“I notice there are some honourable members who are also wearing their flags. I notice honourable (Andrew) Langa has a pin with a Zimbabwean flag and there is an honourable member over there, he has a pin that has a Zimbabwean flag. Where is the difference because there are also flags? What is the difference between those on this side and those on the other side?

“Where is the difference with those wearing flags over their shoulders and those with flags on their jackets? Could you just explain to me where the difference is?”

But Mudenda insisted that a flag that is hanging in cloth is different from one that is on a pin.

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