The hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has dominated social media for the past 24 hours and looks set to live longer than the average lifespan of a usual Twitter trend. Much like #BlackLivesMatter was an impassioned plea for international intervention, this week’s movement is a call for the rest of Africa to stand up and pay attention to the human rights violations that are currently taking place in Zimbabwe.
With news slowly leaking out of the Southern-African nation over the past 10 days, many living across Africa have been able to piece together an increasingly clear picture of what is happening on the ground. In situations like these, relying on news organisations for information doesn’t always tell the complete story.
On the one hand, reports from outside of Zimbabwe don’t always share the most accurate or up-to-date information. On the other hand, certain news houses have been accused of sensationalizing their reports in a bid to drum up viewership. In a bid to find the truth in the middle, we decided to reach out to Zimbabwean journalist Anna Rufaro*, who has offered to share an unbiased and up-to-date account of what’s happening in Zimbabwe right now.
*Anna Rufaro is a pseudonym created to protect the real identity of our correspondent.
Zimbabwe: Scenes From The Ground
We reached out to Anna early on Monday morning. She is based in Harare where she is a qualified lawyer and broadcaster on radio and television.
She begins by saying:
“The situation in Zimbabwe at the moment, under Covid-19 lockdown, is dire. Zimbabwe has not been spared in terms of the economic effects brought about by the pandemic and a lot of families are feeling the effect. Incomes have been cut, people are not able to trade, they are not able to move into business economic zones and trade.
“There’s a feeling that a lot of people might defy lockdown regulations in order to find means and ways to feed their families and this has led to a lot of fear and a deeply seeded panic.”
The Covid-19 Pandemic has exposed a lot of inequalities and inefficiencies particularly in the health sector. Civil servants including doctors, nurses and health care workers have been striking for better working conditions, better pay and social safety nets.”
When speaking about the events that led to the most recent exchanges we have seen between police and demonstrators, Anna says:
“There’s a lot of polarisation on social media. You saw some quarters on social media calling for protest against the government and the general state of the country (described as a stand-still). Those same quarters staged an organised protest at the end of July which kick-started the State’s reaction.”
“We saw a heavy police presence on the 31st of July and people were told to go home. This is where we saw police brutality and unlawful arrests which called into questions the democratic rights of the demonstrators.
“The protest in itself was a non-event, there were no protests that were recorded or seen. But police and soldiers were ready to restore law and order if anything had broken out”.
The story of Hopewell Chin’ono has made the rounds in international news circuits. The journalist, who had just exposed political corruption at the highest levels, was arrested on the 20th of July for allegedly “inciting violence”.
Any occasion when a journalist is imprisoned for reporting should always be cause for alarm and Anna believes that Hopewell, and several others like him, have had their rights infringed upon. She adds:
“As a broadcaster and lawyer what immediately stands out is the violation of rights in the Zimbabwean constitution which allows for peaceful protest. What is not allowed is violent protest or the incitement of violent action. Peaceful protestors shouldn’t be arrested for rightfully demonstrating.
“Journalists have also had their freedom of speech and freedom of expression taken away from them in the form of detainment after speaking out. This has raised red flags in the international community as many believe that Zimbabwe is not acting in accordance with the conventions and treaties it has agreed to.”
As for whether there is any hope for a brighter tomorrow, Anna is frank when she reveals that the country is simply too divided as things currently stand.
“Zimbabwe is polarised right now – we are very divided right now. One side believes that they are right and the opposition is treated with contempt. There is no unity and it’s sad. We have one common enemy right now, being coronavirus. We should be uniting to fight that”
She closes with a strong call for unity:
“The message should be that there is only one Zimbabwe right now and only by working together can we fix the problems we face as a country”
Should the international community intervene with what’s going on in Zimbabwe? Leave your thoughts on social media by tagging @MoziakAfrica!