#ZimShutDown 3.0 is on: 31 August, 2016

On 10 August, I saw a press statement from #Tajamuka announcing #ZimShutDown 3.0, scheduled for 31 August 2016. I’ll admit. I did a small sigh. I mean, the first #ZimShutDown on 6 July was amazing. It was a really beautiful day. The hastily organised stay away took advantage of a teachers’ strike, health workers’ strike, frustration with the SI 64 import ban, commuter omnibus operator disgruntlement and #ThisFlag and it worked. Kombis were mostly off the streets. Vendors were mostly off the streets. Many shops, particularly smaller shops were closed. Cafes were closed. The city had this incredible quiet. On the morning of 5 July I was sceptical whether anyone would actually stay home, and by the evening of 6 July I was humbled, delighted and gratified.

But then there was the 13/14 July stay away. It didn’t have the same stars aligned. The teachers and doctors had been paid. Maybe there weren’t quite as many kombis out, but the streets weren’t quiet in that still, empty way they had been on 6 July. Cafes were closed, but many shops were open. Vendors were on the streets. Attention moved to Pastor Evan Mawarire’s court appearance, which itself was an inspiring public demonstration. But as far as the 13/14 July stay away goes, it definitely didn’t have the same uptake as 6 July did.

So now fast forward to 31 August. As was the case last month, Zimbabwe is in a difficult place. Our economy is in a mess and our government is being ruled by fear and desperation. Since July, the number of street protests and demonstrations have grown, to the extent that people talk about #ProtestWednesday. But is #ZimShutDown 3.0 on 31 August really going to get any uptake?

Anyone who knows me knows that I like information. I like to gather facts and opinions and sit with them before making a decision. I can’t say I’ve ever been accused of being quick to judge, or hasty in any way. So when I hear about Tajamuka’s calls for #ZimShutDown 3.0 on 31 August my natural scepticism kicks in. How has it been organised? It’s school holidays, so teachers aren’t as much of a lobby. But what about vendors? Commuter operators? Formal business? Cafes? What kind of organising and mobilising has taken place this time? Will it get any support?

I was of two minds. On the one hand, certainly Zimbabwe needs all the help it can get right now, and that looks like solidarity and support and coordination. On the other hand, you feel a bit shy if you’re the lonely stay away voice in the wilderness and everyone else is going to work. But then, a fake #Tajamuka message has started doing the rounds, using fear and misinformation to scare people into thinking that the stay away is actually 29 and 30 August and that “Zimbabwe will be on serious fire and guns will be blazing everywhere.” To me, the message looked fake from a mile away. I have no idea who started it, but it’s fear mongering and scare tactics. Personally, I feel like it’s a message planted by the regime to scare people, to discredit Tajamuka, to undermine support for #ZimShutDown3.0 and 31 August, and possibly even to use as evidence against Promise Mkwananzi and other detained activists and / or to support arguments for a state of emergency. Of course, it could be none of those things. Anyone can write a WhatsApp message and brand it #Tajamuka. But this message has spread far and wide and I’ve seen it come back around from all kinds of directions — Which makes me feel like it’s got regime tactics written all over it.

So, being information hungry and fact driven, I went back to Tajamuka’s information. Their press statement from 27 August is clear. Their Facebook page and Twitter feed are clear. #ZimShutDown 3.0 is on 31 August 2016. And according to the Daily News, opposition politicians Joice Mujuru and Morgan Tsvangirai are in support. If I was on two minds before, the misinformation has helped me choose a side. I’m supporting #ZimShutDown 3.0. I still don’t know what kind of lobbying or outreach #Tajamuka has done around it. I don’t know whether shops or businesses or vendors or kombis will support it. But I do know that I’m fed up with a government that doesn’t listen. I’m fed up with a government that has no solutions to our economic mess. I’m fed up with a government that sees disagreement and responds with force. I’m fed up with a government that arrests Tajamuka activists like Promise Mkwananzi and holds them for days in custody on trumped up charges. I’m fed up with a government that uses tear gas and water cannons to disrupt peaceful protests. And I’m fed up with a government where police beat passersby with impunity, whilst peaceful protesters are arrested for airing their views.

#ZimShutDown 3.0
I’ll be at home 31 August 2016. Will you?