Zimbabwean Activists Protest From Outside

Zimbabwean opposition activists in the United States chose the South African embassy in Washington as the target of their latest protest demanding reforms in their home country.
Zimbabwean opposition activists in the United States chose the South African embassy in Washington as the target of their latest protest demanding reforms in their home country.
Nico Colombant

Opposition activists in the Zimbabwean diaspora are pursuing a year-long worldwide protest movement demanding reforms that have already been agreed to, but have yet to be implemented.  Saturday's demonstration came just a few days after Zimbabwe celebrated 32 years of independence with President Robert Mugabe in power the entire time.

Protesters sang opposition songs and beat drums outside the South African embassy in Washington on a warm spring day.

They called for the full implementation of a power-sharing deal reached in 2008.  The so-called Global Political Agreement, or GPA, did help set up a national unity government, but has yet to bring about promised changes in many areas, including media, security, political and election reforms.

Protest organizer Den Moyo, from the Movement for Democratic Change-USA, had a direct message for South African President Jacob Zuma, the main mediator. "We are saying Mr. Zuma, we do not have time. You have asked us to be patient but it has been four years since the GPA has been signed. Let me remind you Mr. Zuma it has been 32 years that our people have been suffering, have been tormented, have been killed, have been murdered, have been maimed, and we are saying we have run out of patience. Patience is no longer with us," he said.

This week, a spokeswoman for Mr. Zuma promised that Mr. Zuma would go to Zimbabwe's capital Harare soon.

Protesters also called for the estimated five million Zimbabweans living outside the country the right to vote in upcoming elections, even though they said they doubted they would get this opportunity.

A Zimbabwean living in the southern U.S. state of Florida, Chris Kwangwari, said that would make it impossible for President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party to win elections. "Most of the youngsters here they understand what freedom means. They understand what choice is and the people back home are not very open to new ideas and change so the diaspora is definitely a threat to them," he said.

Many of the protesters travelled from across the United States to celebrate Zimbabwe's independence together.

But for Maggie Bonda, who came from Dallas, Texas, celebrations are bittersweet. "I am in solidarity with my brothers and sisters to demonstrate against what we see as an endless road to nothing. We need independence, real independence in Zimbabwe," she said.

Zimbabwean protesters in major capitals around the world have been holding demonstrations every 21st of every month this year, hoping these will help make the yet to be scheduled upcoming elections free and fair. While many of the protesters said they wanted to return to Zimbabwe one day, they said if they held similar protests in their home country they could be beaten, jailed or even killed.

Mr. Mugabe says he needs to stay in power to continue correcting the wrongs that still need to be overcome from the time of what was then white minority rule in Rhodesia. Previous elections have been marred by violence, fraud, intimidation and opposition boycotts.

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