Of Quail birds, Flags and Kujamuka: Citizens’ movements and the shifting boundaries/ borders of activism in Zimbabwe, c.2016

2016 is a very important year for Zimbabwe in many respects particularly the coming together of citizens into forming ‘online’ movements to protest against the government over the various manifestations of the Zimbabwe crises. In light of this, this study explores the changing role of the social media in mass mobilization and the erasure of political identities into a national movement advocating for the restoration of Zimbabwe’s bread basket status. It complements but also engages with the ongoing conversations which have considered the seeming aloofness of the Zimbabweans and lack of confrontational approaches as passive docility. While this has found traction in mainstream scholarship as well as the social media platforms such as WhatsApp where Zimbabwean online activists are caricatured and ridiculed as weak when compared with their peers in countries such as South Africa, Tunisia and Egypt who have shaped policy and changed the course of things using the media and confrontation, in this paper we argue that these conclusions cannot be any further from the reality. The Zimbabweans are not docile and comparing them with developments anywhere would be missing the point. The battles, battle fronts and nature of the ‘enemies’ are certainly different and we believe given the context, Zimbabweans have in fact appropriated the social media and through jokes, queries, critical posts have managed to change the course of a number of things as well as negotiate survival. In doing this, we examine the #Thisflag, #Tajamuka and #Occupyunitysquare movements as well as protests over the banning of quail bird (chihuta) production, late payment of salaries, stay-aways and the current controversy over introduction of bond notes to arrive at our conclusions.


Wesley Mwatwara . University of Zimbabwe . wesmel2001@yahoo.co.uk
Ushehwedu Kufakurinani . University of Zimbabwe . urcik@yahoo.com

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