Mobilising rural people

Zimbabwe: EXCLUSIVE: Tajamuka activist tells IBTimes UK about plans to spread campaign to Zanu-PF strongholds

International Business Times - By Elsa Buchanan

September 8, 2016


'We are at the tip of the end of President Mugabe”, Zimbabwe's Tajamuka campaign says

Zimbabwean social media movement and anti-government campaign Tajamuka has vowed to make significant gains and gather support in rural areas after a High Court rules a ban on pro-democracy protests unlawful.

After almost four decades of quelled frustrations under President Robert Mugabe's iron-fisted rule, a flurry of citizen or civil activism movements have been rising and spreading in the South African nation, and are calling for much yearned social, political and economic change – areas where they believe standard opposition politics have not delivered as hoped.

On Wednesday (7 September) judges of Zimbabwe's High Court lifted an "unconstitutional" ban by police on political demonstrations carried out by opposition parties and pro-democracy groups in the country. The decision came just days after President Robert Mugabe accused the judiciary of "recklessness" for allowing the demonstrations that turned violent at times.

One of the peaceful campaigns, known as Tajamuka/Sesjikile, is among a number of opposition groups that were seeking to challenge the constitutionality of the ban in the nation's High Court, after a number of its campaigners were arrested for taking part in demonstrations in the capital.

Tajamuka: 'We need to mobilise rural people'

Now, the campaign is hoping to use the ruling to gather support and build additional capacity outside of Zimbabwe's large cities – Harare and Bulawayo.

"We are going to be going to rural areas – we now need to mobilise rural people, so that, when we do actions, it is as one united group. We need to move into mining towns, move into farming communities, communities with a rural set-up so that we when we call for days of action, it's not only about the town, it's about the whole of Zimbabwe," a member of Tajamuka campaign, Sylvanos Bhanditi Mudzvova, told IBTimes UK from Harare on 8 September.

According to the World Bank, there were 10.5 million Zimbabweans living in rural areas in 2015 - 68% of the population.

"Just under seven out of 10 people in Zimbabwe live in rural areas, so they compose a very large constitution that we need to be able to work with. That constituency is, most of the time, controlled by way of intimidation –mainly from (governing party) Zanu-PF, but now it's started opening up and they are inviting us too to come in," the activist said in an exclusive interview.

'Fear of (Zanu-PF) is going'

Tajamuka, along with the #ThisFlag social media campaign, has vowed to continue the struggle against the nation's political leadership until Mugabe steps down – a pledge that comes in spite of reports of brutality from the security forces.

However, while the regime threatened to crack down on social media activists it brands as "cyber-terrorists", Zanu-PF – and Mugabe – also appear to have lost the support of his power base, the Liberation War veterans, after Zanu-PF expelled nine officials from its ranks following a veterans' revolt against Mugabe.

Mudzvova claimed Tajamuka was now able to talk to the tens of thousands people living in rural areas in which there have been numerous allegations that the ruling party may have been responsible for widespread political intimidation. Zanu-PF has consistently denied the claims.

"Now the fear is going, intimidation coming from supporters in these areas is no longer there, so it is time we move into those areas and make sure that those same people can now be reached," he said.

"It shows that we are now managing to penetrate in some of the areas that could not be penetrated before - such as Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe in Mashonaland East Province, a Zanu-PF stronghold - where there haven't been any opposition rallies due to the fact that feared youth are ruthless about any opposition party that would come."

"Now, we have managed to organise a meeting in that particular area. Our estimate is that we can reach 1,200 people, which means we are making a lot of headway."

Zimbabweans are expected to head to the polls in 2018 - elections in which long-term incumbent Mugabe announced he would run for another term, despite the fact we will be 94 at the time of the general elections.

More from IBTimes UK:

·         Zimbabwe: Opposition 'ready to take over' from ageing Mugabe as protests turns violent in Harare

·         Zimbabwe: Opposition leader Tendai Biti urges for 'broad coalition' as 2018 poll approaches

·         Zimbabwe: Tajamuka social movement vows to protest as groups challenge regime over ban Tajamuka protesters say they will march on Zimbabwean president's offices despite police brutality