Peter Nyoni | Tajamuka and Thisflag protests may or may not be closely linked to the November 2017 events that led to the fall of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, but one way or the other it did shape up people’s temperament and response to oppression.
In 2016, the two groups mobilised citizens across the country into staging massive, and ruinous demonstrations as well as stay-aways; in the process disregarding Mugabe’s calls not to do so. For the first time in the country’s history, car tyres were burnt in the streets of Harare’s CBD, roads blocked with logs and stones, while some government buildings were destroyed by arson.
While Zimbabweans had at some point previously staged demos, and stay-aways, it was never to the 2016 magnitude. In the past years, they could listen to Mugabe’s calls for calmness, or at least disperse upon learning that Mugabe could send ‘his’ police force to extinguish the disturbances, however, in 2016 it was a different scenario all together.
In that period, the people refused to be cowed by threats, they fought running battles with the police, with Harare CBD resembling a typical war zone.
While some people were later to believe that the Team Lacoste could have been the driving force behind the 2016 demos in an attempt to ruin Mugabe’s reputation on the international stage. Either that school of thought is true or not, but it is very clear that the 2016 events themselves could have set precedence for the November 2017 march that toppled Mugabe.
Before the 2016 demos, it was unheard of on the Zimbabwean soil that anyone could publicly opposed Mugabe, let alone burn tyres and throwing stones in his face. During that time his motorcade had to pass through burning tyres, and flying stones, as he headed for the then Harare International Airport.
The people’s courage shocked Mugabe, at the same time measuring to what extent can he be disrespected.
The events marked a turning point in the country’s history, a move that shaped the citizens’ character, it became clear that when stirred enough, Zimbabweans can revolt against oppression.
That also set precedence for the 2017 events, as those who organised the march used the 2016 events as a yardstick, that if the people could be mobilised through social media, and without assurance of their safety during the demos, what more were they prepared to do with security forces behind them.
The 2016 events gave the citizen the courage that the voice of Mugabe can be totally disregarded. It shaped the people’s view of Mugabe, it gave them the basis to test if he indeed had horns, the bravery to find out if the perceived horns were instead ears.
Had that precedence not had been set, it could have been difficult for the war vets to lead people into the streets, even with assurance that the army would back the march. People could have waited to see for themselves if the army was indeed in the streets helping them, before joining the march. But because of the precedence set in 2016, people got courage to stand up against Mugabe.
Tyrant Mugabe was feared to the extent that even when he was under house arrest, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation was afraid to read a press statement from the army that it was taking over. It took the army itself to storm the national broadcaster and read the statement live on air.
In a nutshell, the Tajamuka, #tagthisflag either planned by Team Lacoste or not, did pave way for the coup.
Peter Moyo is a Zimbabwean businessman, he travels frequently between Harare and South Africa