Zimbabwe: Why Monday Shutdown Flopped?

3 July 2019
opinion

Tajamuka was created as a coalition of several organizations to carry out peaceful but radical and action-oriented protests and activities. The main rationale was to create an amorphous movement that is less bureaucratic de-institutionalised and thus rapid in its responsiveness to the issues and events on the ground than most highly institutionalised and hierarchical organisations would ordinarily be.

Secondly, it was supposed to compliment both civic society organisations and democratic political parties by being a purely citizen based social movement that could mobilise all people regardless of the political belongings. This mobilisation would be done on the basis of the pursuit of political justice, social cohesion and economic freedom. These would obviously contribute to the broader democratic struggle.

Tajamuka therefore became a natural ally of the broader democratic movement from its inception and many activists and democratic organisations not only identified with it but also actively took part in its spontaneous, instantaneous and radical programs of action.

One of the mischiefs Tajamuka was created to cure was the fact that bigger and bureaucratic organisations could take ages to respond to a pertinent national until the political moment was lost and/or overtaken by events. Thus Tajamuka became the vehicle for rapid response to economic and political events in Zimbabwe and became a household name among the young and the old alike.

This has never changed and is not likely to change in the hearts and minds of the people of Zimbabwe, both in and outside the country, rich and poor, young and old, men and women. It will remain so for the foreseeable future and for as long as Tajamuka remains that social movement it was founded to be.

Towards the end of June 2019, political events began to gather momentum in Zimbabwe. By the 20th of June, events had reached the tipping point and the agitation among the masses was near boiling point. On the 25th of June 2019, true to its form Tajamuka began a rapid response process. A petition was submitted to President Mnangagwa and the Clerk of Parliament giving them a five-day ultimatum to address the issues that were raised, many of them centred on or arising from the constitution of Zimbabwe from the right to peaceful protests to the President and his government.

For Tajamuka, this is not a new phenomenon.

In 2016, we sued Mugabe on more or less the same basis. We also participated in several other campaigns and shutdowns including the final march that abdicated President Mugabe. We also participated in the August 2018 protests demanding the timely release of election results, we participated in the January 2019 national shutdown and many others. We did this regardless of who called the action and we will continue to participate and support actions from the broader democratic movement whether called by individuals, organisations, opposition parties or otherwise as long as we are sure that these actions further the broader democratic objectives of the people of Zimbabwe and as long as such actions and activities are democratic, lawful, peaceful and non-violent.

That is why when we called for the national shutdown on Monday the 1st of July 2019, it barely registered in our minds that there was going to be any issues of who had called the action. We acted in the true spirit of Tajamuka which is to seize the political moment and use the flexibility of the movement to kick-start a series of events and activities that we started and had hoped other progressive organisations would support.

Since its formation, Tajamuka has never harboured any other mandate besides that which it has which is to be a citizen based pressure group that mobilises citizens to respond rapidly, radically, but peacefully to the economic and political events on the ground.

On the 1st of July, it was in the same spirit that we called the for the national shutdown. It is evident that the moment and timing were perfect. It didn't and still doesn't matter much who had called it, democratic organisations and movements were and are still supposed and expected to seize the moment and provide the leadership that the people of Zimbabwe expect of them.

Surely, we can't lose a golden political opportunity just to spite Tajamuka or show the world that Tajamuka cannot do it alone. It is common cause that we cannot do it alone and that nobody can do it alone. To borrows from President Barack Obama "The challenges we are facing are greater than the smallness of our politics".

The time for action and leadership is now. Our groundwork and even the traction and momentum generated towards the 1st of July prove that the political momentum is ripe for such action from both activists and general citizens. This is also evident in the social media were people are clamouring for action. This action ought to come from a collective and selfless effort of all actors and stakeholders.

It doesn't matter who called it what matters is that it is done and done decisively.

In conclusion, it is our considered view that the political moment still exists for democratic forces to make both an impact and a difference. The call by the ZCTU for action after the expiry of their ultimatum to government is no less an opportunity than the 1st of July and deserves the support of all and sundry who still believe in the struggle for the democratisation of Zimbabwe.

The MDC is and remains the biggest and most formidable political formation in Zimbabwe-arguably even more formidable than ZANU PF itself (barring party-state conflation). It therefore does not make any strategic sense for the MDC to seem to be threatened or in competition with formations that are way smaller than it and that are meant to cushion and complement the MDC in situations and circumstances where the MDC cannot be seen to be on the lead.

This also applies to the ZCTU, a formidable workers union that ought to be working with Tajamuka and other outfits that are better placed to embrace the informal sector to augment the ZCTU owing the depletion of the labour base we knew in the past that passed on due to unemployment and ZANU PF's economic mismanagement.

We remain committed to a collaborative approach with other pro-democratic forces in Zimbabwe. Founded by more than 43 organisations, collaboration is in the DNA of Tajamuka. As we collectively look to escalate the action against the malpractices of the ZANU PF, we plead the case of unity and collaboration, tolerance and complementarity among the democratic forces. The moment for collective, selfless and decisive action is now. The people of Zimbabwe expect no less from us.

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