Bernard Bwoni Correspondent
The individual or individuals behind the “flag movement” or whichever name they prefer to be known by, have issued a statement of what they claim are “citizens’ demands” to the Government of Zimbabwe.
This was issued on social media sites Facebook and Twitter. Some of the demands were that the “RBZ and Ministry of Finance must make an announcement that they are no longer issuing out bond notes” and “the Ministry of Industry and Commerce must make an announcement about the removal of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 banning the importation of certain inessential goods into Zimbabwe”.
The statement goes on to say that: “If all the demands are not met within the next few days the citizens will be shutting Zimbabwe down again on Wednesday 13th and Thursday 14th July 2016”. There are also reports suggesting that Pastor Evan and other individuals have also threatened to march to State House if these demands and ultimatums to Government are not heeded. It’s like some British individual threatening to shut down Britain if government plans to cut welfare benefits are not put aside. This is precisely what Pastor Evan is trying to do with his coercive, confusing and confused strategy. It is a simple case of a few clueless individuals getting together to issue out demands to the Government on Facebook without any consent or consultation.
One Facebook socialite, Ms Kerina Mujati posted on her Facebook Wall challenging Evan’s sincerity in this short-sighted shutdown Zimbabwe movement and queried his motive by saying;
“Pastor Evan Mawarire typical fake pastor, prophet of doom typical of a terrorist. He is trying hard to be noticed thinking he might line his empty pockets as he isn’t a match of the bling pastors Makandiwa, Angel and Magaya. You call for a stay away contributing to the downfall of the economy you are moaning about. People who are self-employed have lost earnings. Calling for a stayaway with no agenda to your means is beyond obnoxious. Evan watadza kukoroza mari ye fake minana oda kukonzeresa. People who are being injured do you have a way to assist them get medical aid? There is no man of God like you, only a terrorist can behave as such. What did you achieve as (President) Mugabe has not paid attention to your disorganisation? Please leave people to get on with their lives you fake pastor. You are thirsty for attention, for your glory, what of the masses? Vanotuka tukai henyu muchitungamirirwa nemupupuri wenhema Madzibaba Wapusa Evan. Munangwarira kuzviisa muCivil War muchizvinyepera kuti muri kuita revolution kukaurisa (Preident) Mugabe munangwarira vanokuudzai kuti zvinangwa zvavo ndezvei. Ndikoko. #ýcdesistermwenewazvo?#”
Ms Mujati’s post earned her some shocking vitriol from other Facebook users for disagreeing with Pastor Evan’s strategy and questioning his motives. She, however, has every reason to question him because his call urging citizens to “shutdown Zimbabwe” has far-reaching implications for the nation as a whole and have the potential to plunge the country into a state of anarchy and lawlessness. The fact of the matter is that Pastor Evan has been brazen to the point of implying that his own word is the ‘citizens’ last word’. In his videos his starting statement has been, “the citizens have spoken”. This use of the word ‘citizens’ requires further interrogation to bring about some clarity to the confusion. He has been speaking as a private citizen and as far as I am aware, he does not represent any formal organisation such as a political entity or a civic organisation.
Let’s get facts correct, Pastor Evan is not an elected official and as such he does not have a mandate similar to the one the Government has to make decisions to introduce bond notes or introduce import bans where they consider necessary. He does not have any members he leads or represents as he does not belong to any formal organisation except his own church maybe. He is a private citizen sharing his campaign on social media sites and this potentially flawed campaign is not immune to scrutiny or even ridicule. As a private citizen, he cannot make demands or decisions on behalf of all citizens, but only in his individual capacity. When he does that in his individual capacity, that is his constitutional right, he is entitled to it and he should exercise that. However, when he starts making demands and giving ultimatums to Government he needs to make it clear that those are his own personal pronouncements and not the voice of the citizens as he falsely claims. He has not consulted with and obtained permission from the majority of the citizenry to issue ultimatums on their behalf. The problem that arises from his use of the word ‘citizens’, ill-conceived actions and pronouncements is that they end up infringing on other people’s constitutional rights not to be part of his personal charade. The fact that he uses the statement ‘the citizens have spoken’ means that even those who do not agree with his tactics are lumped in the same bracket when his actions are analysed.
In his Facebook demands, he made it clear that “the citizens did not want bond notes and also did not want Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 to ban certain imports into the country to boost domestic exports”. Now here is where the problem comes because it is not true that citizens do not want these two items. The question is what sample size did he use to determine that citizens did not want bond notes? This is what irked private citizens like Ms Mujati and they are challenging his claim to speak on behalf of all citizens of Zimbabwe. Pastor Evan should refrain from dragging all citizens into his personal project. He needs to specify which citizens he is speaking on behalf of because there is need for consultation. Without that consensus and without the mandate, he can’t speak on behalf of all citizens. A Facebook Wall or Twitter Feed does not equate to a polling booth granting him an electoral mandate. Individual private citizens’ declarations and statements should not be confused with the voice of the people.
The question is, what about those who do not subscribe to his “private” demands and ultimatums? It is interesting to note that Pastor Evan is accusing Government of not listening to the “citizens” and doing things without consulting the “citizens”, and here he is doing exactly what he is accusing the Government of not doing. What gives him the right to make declarations in his personal capacity as a private citizen to mean the entirety of the “citizens of Zimbabwe”? There are many who do not want him to make demands on their behalf. To just decide to speak on behalf of all citizens is way too ambitious. There are many who can’t wait for the bond notes to be introduced and there are many local producers and citizens who welcome Statutory Instrument 64:16.
The brazen disregard of consultation and consensus on the part of activists like Pastor Evan points to a sharp shift from the democratic ideals that the opposition claim to champion and repeatedly accuse the Government of abdicating. The vitriol and threats Ms Mujati received for disagreeing with Pastor Evan points to the deep-rooted intolerance on the part of those citizens whom Evan speaks on behalf of. What is shocking is that some have gone onto Ms Mujati’s profile, downloaded pictures of her children and are using those images in an unbecoming manner. This is the select group of citizens that Pastor Evan represents and is issuing the demands and ultimatums on behalf of.
The government was given the mandate to govern and the responsibility of making certain decisions on behalf of the nation. Some of the decisions may be unpopular with private citizens like Pastor Evan and that is normal. Whoever is advising Pastor Evan is leading him astray and if he has no one advising him then he needs to seriously consider engaging someone to offer him such services. In his first interview on Star FM when he was pitted against Mr Tafadzwa Musarara, he was unrelenting and talking over others to the point of the interlocutor having to rebuke him.
He has also been given an audience with the RBZ Governor and again it was the same choreographed-like repetitive message about being tired of government and government not listening to the citizens. I watched snippets with the Governor and he was listened to and allowed to air his views. The government can listen to citizens’ views but to change each and every policy decision to fit in with each individual private citizen’s specific demands and ultimatums is asking too much. Pastor Evan’s message propels his select citizens to be agitated about things they did not even know they should be agitated about. He is tapping into emotional core of that niche market of those who may feel left out.