Zimbabwe history being re-written. A flag for, not against, ordinary citizens.

The past couple weeks have put South Africa’s northern neighbour Zimbabwe on a tipping point. Internally the country is gripped by a movement akin to the Arab Spring. And while citizens are downing tools, government is fighting back, threatening with the stick. And while social unrest takes flight, so the economy is on its knees. Government workers have not been paid as Zimbabwe’s cupboard is bare, so bare that it also cannot pay a $1.8 billion debt back to the IMF. It looks like there’s no where to turn, but at least there’s hope, after a siteen year long trauma according to regular contributor Cathy Buckle . A better Zimbabwe, a better South Africa. – Stuart Lowman

By Cathy Buckle*

History is being re-written here in Zimbabwe and this week’s paragraph gripped the country and caused wild jubilation when a new victory was won in our gruelling sixteen year long trauma. Three months ago when Pastor Evan Mawarire spoke about what the colours in the Zimbabwean flag meant for him, the video on social media lit a fire in the hearts of ordinary people and from nowhere a movement now known as #ThisFlag emerged and is spreading like wild fire.

Zimbabwean protesters wait outside the Harare Magistrates court before the arrival of arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Zimbabwean protesters wait outside the Harare Magistrates court before the arrival of arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

For the past sixteen years many ordinary Zimbabweans have come to feel intimidated by our country’s flag; it had become the badge of war veterans, farm invaders and Zanu PF supporters. Wrapped around waists at ruling party rallies, erected in trees on seized lands, displayed on car dashboards to enable easy passage through police roadblocks. In April 2016 Pastor Evan Mawarire changed all that and started a tidal wave of new patriotism in Zimbabweans who’ve had enough and want their country back.

Reports described how many hundreds and later thousands had gathered to support Pastor Evan Mawarire who had been arrested and charged with inciting public violence after he had called for national stay aways. There are hundreds of photographs, videos, media reports and eye witness accounts on social media sites of events that took place at the Harare Magistrates court on Wednesday 13th July 2016. Images, audio clips and reports that brought tears to our eyes and made Zimbabweans everywhere so proud to be Zimbabwean. We got our flags out and put them next to us and if we couldn’t be there in person we were there in spirit and at every twist and turn in the story our hearts were in our mouths.

With shock, disbelief and disgust news came mid afternoon that the state had changed the charges against the Pastor to “subverting a constitutional government,” in other words treason. The new charge was challenged, the Magistrate adjourned to consider and outside still the people didn’t go away; more gathered. Night fell and still the people waited until sometime around 7.30pm Pastor Evan emerged. Free to go. Charges dropped. The Magistrate ruled that the new charges pressed by the State were a violation of the Constitution. The crowd erupted into jubilation. Hope had been restored.

Hope, not in one person, but in us; hope in the future for Zimbabwe. The courage of the thousands of Zimbabweans who descended on the Harare Magistrates Court and sat, stood, sang and prayed for justice has inspired Zimbabweans in many countries in the Diaspora to add their voices and their calls and protests are growing by the day. At the bottom of their posters #ThisFlag has one line which says it better than anything else: “Bolder Citizens, a better Zimbabwe,” and this week we have seen exactly that.

Read also: Zimbabweans regain collective memory; nation deserves better than Mugabe

When I bought my own Zimbabwean flag some time ago I was told it was called a “supporters flag,” otherwise known as a Zanu PF supporters flag. A supporters flag indeed! I am a Zimbabwean and this is my country and my flag too I thought as I unfolded it and hung it by my desk! Proud to be Zimbabwean and proud to have been writing about events in my country for the past 16 years.

  • Cathy Buckle is the author of four children books. She has also written the non-fictional African Tears, the Zimbabwe Land Invasions, Beyond Tears: Zimbabwe’s tragedy, Innocent Victims: Rescuing the Stranded Animals of Zimbabwe’s Farm Invasions and Sleeping Like a Hare.
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