Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Role of civil society critical in change processes

TOP del.icio.us

In response to my blog Civil society needs to re-strategize one of our subscribers sent in the following comment:

I do agree on peaceful demonstrations but fundamentally differ with the writer on the accountability of the organizer (s). I think the NCA, Woza, Zinasu and ZCTU have done enough as it is. Remember, it is illegal to have a group of more than four people or organising such. The organisers will be taking risks in organizing these demonstrations. My suggestion is for Zimbabweans to start getting involved in protests in a cunning way. No one should be given the task of organizing because then you need to coordinate and plan and put the whole project into a scheduled start-do-end scenario which has failed so far. In Thailand people have been protesting for 5 months. I don’t think there is a project manager for this, everyone feels responsible and they do not have an end date but an end objective and are actively dedicated. By cultivating bravery, Zimbabweans can change their destiny because those with power are a very small number compared to those who are suffering. Also those with power are actually frightened that is why they rely on guns, violence and intimidation. We are still at a stage where we value “going to work” even if that is now meaningless or “queuing at the bank” even though we may not get our money. We need the same determination to be cultivated in changing the lame duck mentality when it comes to demonstrating for social progress. The whole world is actually waiting for Zimbabweans themselves to actively and practically SHOW their disgust at what is happening in their countries before they can come and assist.

First off, to say civil society has done enough as it is akin to saying HIV and AIDS workers must just stop because now it is up to people to abstain, be faithful and condomize. The civil society organizations the author mentioned as examples are among the many others that pledged to stand up for the rights of others. It is their core business and what donors give them funds for. So to say they have done enough gives the impression that all their goals and objectives have been achieved, and that the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has improved to such an extent that they can now stop. Alternatively it gives the impression that their efforts have failed and its now up to Zimbabweans to sort this mess out themselves.

Secondly the fact that POSA criminalizes mass mobilizations is a matter of public knowledge. But despite that knowledge, WOZA, Zinasu, the NCA among others still go out to protest in large numbers because action like this is fundamental to civil disobedience. The quest to be heard calls for the need to do something that attracts attention. Mass protest achieves that goal.

Third, it is unfortunate that the author does not suggest means and ways Zimbabweans can “start getting involved in protests in a “cunning way, ” neither does he say how Zimbabweans can start “cultivating bravery” in order to change their destiny. I must point out that we are talking about a highly traumatized people that are scared out of their wits of the invisible government. A people that is trying to recover from witnessing their wives, mothers and sisters being raped senseless in their presence. How simple is it then for people to just jump up and protest one day without any form of leadership? Steve Biko so rightly put it that the most important weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. Zimbabweans have more than one enemy; they still have to get over the fear in their minds to be able to move forward.

That civil society has dared to protest is what gives us hope and is the very reason why we ought to harness that strength. Why should they not be encouraged to incorporate more practical means of protest that everyone else will feel compelled to join? Indeed Zimbabweans need to cultivate bravery but right now the pressing matter is that we’ve got a dictator in our midst, and the actions of civil society are what will give the ordinary citizens the clout to engage in protest. Cholera has failed to galvanize people, so have hyperinflation, poverty and food shortages. Only people can move people now.

The small protest activities that civil society has organized so far have required a lot of planning and have been dangerous to implement. Why shouldn’t they be encouraged to do the same thing at a more coordinated level so that we see some real change? Do they not owe it to the people whose rights they represent to form more practical, effective mobilizations that will include those same people in change processes?

Yes, it is true that the world is waiting for Zimbabweans themselves to do something about this situation, but remember, the rest of the world does not live here, like you and I do, and we happen to have first-hand knowledge of the exact situation on the ground.

Comments are closed.