HARARE - Over the past month, Zimbabwe has seen an unprecedented wave of protests against longtime president Robert Mugabe.
Since June, Zimbabwe has witnessed protests demanding that Mugabe’s government respect human rights and fix the sinking economy.
On Wednesday, several people were injured as police dispersed a protest in Harare against the government’s plan to introduce its own bond notes in October in response to a persistent cash shortage.
Pastor Evan Mawarire has emerged as a leader of the demonstrations under the banner of the #thisflag movement.
In a video posted on the social media Thursday, he said the protests will take a new shape Saturday in Bulawayo during the Zimbabwe-New Zealand cricket match.
"When the 36th over starts, you and I are going to stand up as a sign of saying for 36 years [of Mugabe’s rule], we have been quiet, but now we are standing up. I want you to sing the national anthem. They can’t shut you up," Mawarire stated. "They can’t arrest you for singing the national anthem. Every channel that is covering the cricket game will have to catch it. ZBC [Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation] will turn the cameras away but they can’t shut our voices down.”
Mawarire fled to neighboring South Africa last month after he was acquitted of charges of trying to topple President Mugabe’s government.
Tafadzwa Mugwadi, a senior ZANU-PF youth and former student movement leader, said the protests are not going to change anything.
“I do not have anything to buy out of it because you cannot tell me that you can mobilize four million people on Facebook, on Whatsapp platforms and say you can make actual impact in politics. I think it is just one such platforms aimed at the government and aimed at the ruling party and nothing more. There is nothing much to read out of it, [besides] lawless and cluelessness,” said Mugwadi.
But Mugabe, who is 92, is meeting resistance even from within his own ZANU-PF party.
This week, the ruling party expelled four members of the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association after the group released a statement describing Mugabe as "dictatorial" and demanding him to end to his 36-year rule.
The four war veterans were arrested and released on bail. They face charges of trying to undermine the president’s authority.
Analyst and Harare Polytechnic University lecturer Alexander Rusero said the Mugabe government has the power to stop these protests. “What is happening in Zimbabwe is emanating from leadership crisis. It is emanating from the El Nino-induced drought, cash shortages in banks, culminated by a clueless ruling party, which is not making any deliberate effort to at least posture to people to say: Look, at least we are doing something. So people are saying: enough is enough. This is not necessarily an end game for Mugabe because there is still chance to mend fences,” he said.
The economic situation continues to agitate people. Some Zimbabweans have called for all borders to be shut on Monday to force Harare to lift restrictions of imports introduced last month.