Magazine article New Internationalist

Interview with Zvakwana

Magazine article New Internationalist

Interview with Zvakwana

Article excerpt

THE words are everywhere. Zvakwana! Enough is enough! Scrawled on walls and street signs; printed on matchboxes and clothes pegs. From the cities to the towns and through to the villages all across Zimbabwe, this message - of hope and of defiance - is slowly spreading. It's making the authorities nervous. 'These [Zvakwana] people, whoever they are, have been hiding and spreading material and literature aimed at inciting members of the public to lawlessness,' said a police spokesperson. 'We would be interested in talking to them,' he said - Government doublespeak for interrogation, beatings or worse.

Zvakwana means 'enough is enough' in the Shona language; the Ndebele alternative word is 'Sokwanele'. According to one activist, it is also 'a network of ordinary people who are encouraging Zimbabweans across the country to get up, stand up and speak out about the basic issues that are currently before us: poverty, hunger, unemployment, lack of healthcare, failing education and the root cause of all of these problems, bad governance.' Within these messages lie the network's crime: to criticize the Government of the ageing and increasingly autocratic ruler of Zimbabwe - Robert Mugabe.

It is difficult for outsiders to comprehend the magnitude of the leap backwards that Zimbabwe has taken in just a few years. Imagine a Government that claims that unemployment stands at 9 per cent when more than 70 per cent of the employable population is out of work. Or a country where annual inflation stands at 150 per cent (the highest in the world), where international relief agencies are ordered to stop distributing food while the number of people in need of food continues to rise. A land where opposition politicians are routinely targeted for assassination and clandestine torture training camps teach young men to kill and intimidate those who speak out against Mugabe's regime.

But Our target is not the small dictator,' says one of Zvakwana's representatives. 'It is the people of Zimbabwe. Our message to them is to find courage, to refuse to be intimidated, trampled on, abused and taken for granted. Our message of individual and collective activism is essential to changing the way things are here.'

The network's street-level activism takes many forms. …

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