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The momentum of empty streets

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One thing that’s been on my mind is this word “momentum” which I’ve heard quite often lately. Since the violence around the Highfields rally on Sunday 11 March, people have been asking how to keep up momentum, or build on momentum – how to leverage discontent and a seeming willingness to act.

I was reminded of this question of momentum when I was running the other night. I noticed my shoelace untied some 20 minutes or so from my destination. I knew I should stop and tie it, as I could feel my shoe working itself loose on my foot and I didn’t want to trip over the laces. But I didn’t, because I didn’t want to lose momentum. So I figured I’d wait until I got to a good place to stop.

Of course, when I did trip myself and landed splat in the dust with a skinned knee and damaged pride, that was a good time to stop – but not quite as good as a few seconds earlier might have been. I was reminded of the importance of taking breaks and adjusting to changing circumstances.

I’ve been thinking similarly about the stay away which the ZCTU has called for 3 and 4 April. Maybe it’s a change of tactics, an opportunity to deescalate violence, build confidence and move energies for another phase. I’d love to see a massive shut down of shops, banks and businesses, but I don’t know how well it will be supported.

The other morning, I stopped in to pick up some bread, and chatted a bit with the guy behind the counter there.

–How’s business, I ask him.
–Tight. No flour.
–It’s hard to run a bakery with no flour.
–It is, he shrugs.
–What do you think of this stay away coming up?
–He laughs and shakes his head.

I had a look at the minimum wages which were gazetted in January. The government agreed minimum wage for the highest level of domestic worker – a red cross certified disabled or aged minder – is Z$620 per day. A banana costs $1,000. One way transport from a nearby suburb into the city centre is Z$5,000. Things are seriously out of whack.

The Tiri-pa-tight Negotiating Forum may not be able to deliver solutions, but I think the reasons to support the stay away go much deeper than any hope of an instant pay rise or even sudden change of heart by the regime.

Like Trevor Ncube was saying in the Independent this week, “as Zimbabweans who believe in our country, we must begin to plot a way forward that is not dependent on Mugabe, Zanu PF or even the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).”

This stay away is about taking advantage of an initiative that’s been in the works since February, and using it to mobilise and inspire people, and giving confidence in the our ability to work together and get outside of party politics.

People I’ve spoken with in the past few weeks are concerned about the violence Zimbabwe has seen in recent weeks. Many have made comments about not wanting to see Zimbabwe go back to the bush, or back to war. If the options are violence or the status quo, it seems many would rather stick with the status quo.

This is one more reason to support the stay away – it is a change of tactics. It’s one more way to build participation and collective resistance, hopefully non-violently. I’d love to wake up next Tuesday to empty streets and shuttered doors.

3 comments to “The momentum of empty streets”

  1. Comment by Ini Ndini (Unanimous):

    Its true that MDC lacks calibre and Tsvangirayi is amongst CIOs namely Welshman Ncube, Isaac Matongo, Priscilla Misihairambwi and I suspect Arthur Mtambara he is over ambitious and should have started as the party spokesman if he was serious. The above mentioned were never touched whilst Morgan ended up with a fractured skull????? MDC thinks they will be in power simply by being an opposition. Politics is about changing peoples lives by buying their hearts. African politicians have money as the main motive yet in Europe passion and commitment are more important I call it serving the peoples interest. I was involved directly in MDC UK but decided to quit because we seemed to have different agendaz and most of my mates were incompetent and power hungry. Lets worry about millions of Zimbabweans suffering. I advise fellow Zimbabweans never to vote for Emerson Munangwagwa he is as evil as Mugabe we need people with a heart in Zimbabwe. Chao

  2. Comment by Ini Ndini (Unanimous):

    ndaenda am gone adios more fire Mugabe is now history

  3. Comment by Kevin Kofi:

    In all that which the media have said about Zimbabwe lately, I hardly see what has superceded your arguments. However, Mgabe is an African man – perhaps a pan-African man as described by the African Muslims, especially http://www.esinislam.com. Just like many other leaders in Africa, he’s lost. Mugabe is known to be a tyrant, and Mandela a freedom fighter. They both have traits of anti-Africanism. That’s loving vainglory of non-African, Mugabe of the Middle East, and Mandela of the West.

    Perhaps, our Sheikh, Sheikh Adelabu has said it all during his last Friday lecture when a Zimbabwean revert Muslim asked him about the situations of Zimbabwe. The West African scholar of Arabic, Islamic, and International relations said – and i quote – that: “Whenever, there is a problem between an African politician and other African politician, it’s better and more beneficial that every measure is taken to distance the non-Africans especially those with long history of double standard and counter-interests. Africa’s problems today, according to Sheikh Adelabu who calls on individual to total submission to the Creator, are better solved by the Africans.

    It’s of course obvious the West, especially the United Kingdom and the United States have history of hostilities with Mugabe. Therefore, any solution to Zimbabwe’s problems to come from these two former slave traders, imperialists, and colonial master may not be – if appropriate – all free from self-serving interests and arrogance.

    Kevin Kofi