Throughout history, there have been innumerable instances of civil disobedience, people protesting governments to express their desires for change.
Zimbabwe is no stranger to all sorts of demonstrations from hunger strikes, sit-ins or sit-downs, to stay aways, to marches all these have been used in Zimbabwe to no avail nothing seems effective because 36 years on we don’t seem to have made a dent on the despotic regime.
It is very unfortunate, that almost always these expressions of displeasure with the status quo, in Zimbabwe without fail always take a violent turn.
There have been plenty of non-violent protests in Zimbabwe, but the state always have a way to turn everything that is a protest into a violent and brutal activity where the state security and supposed law and order officers brutalise the citizenry.
Zimbabweans in and out of the country have tried everything from staging sit-ins, marches, blockades, and hunger strikes every possible tactic has been used to raise awareness about issues that are taking place in the Zimbabwean society, highlighting the corruption, the police brutality and the suppression of human rights.
But just when you thought Zimbabweans have exhausted all available forms of civil disobedience up steps Shingirai Paradzai with a very comical way of civil disobedience.
This young graphics designer who says he is an MDC supporter and advocate for a democratic Zimbabwe has been quietly creating very comical captions with some of the most ridiculous quotes and attributing them to the Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. He has been working quietly flooding social media with these funny quotes and at some point the media in Kenya and in Uganda picked up one of his quotes which he had attributed to the Zimbabwean president and believed that it was actually said by the Zimbabwean leader.
Civil disobedience of the highest order
The state security agents searched high and low for the perpetrator of such civil disobedience but they hand no clue as to who it was but Shingirai Paradzai says one of his close friends tipped the authorities and he knew he was in trouble.
He immediately went into hiding and he told Onward Christian Radio that he still feels very unsafe venturing back into Zimbabwe.
He told Onward Christian Radio, that he was speaking out now because he thinks this will raise awareness of his plight and he wanted people to know in case the Zimbabwean authorities snatched him.
“Things are crazy in Zimbabwe, my form of civil disobedience could get me disappeared you can vanish in Zimbabwe, I mean look at what happened to Itai Dzamara he just vanished off the face of the earth the authorities in Zimbabwe will crash anyone seen or found to be doing the sort of thing that I did there is no space for such creative humor or civil disobedience.”
Shingirai Paradzai went on to say. “I am inspired by what Tajamuka is doing in Zimbabwe, I love my country and I would like to see change I would like to see the opening up of the democratic space. We engage in civil disobedience because we are starved of free expression, we are denied basic human rights in a country that claims to be independent and democratic. Look at what they tried to do to pastor Evan Mawarire!”
We have other option but civil disobedience
Asked why he had taken the route to caricature the president of Zimbabwe and why attributing these funny and at times silly quotes to Mugabe. Shingirai said, “the idea came when I saw these funny quotes that were anonymous and some very wise words but also anonymous then I thought a lot of times I hear people saying ‘a wise old man once said this and that’ you know? Then I thought what if we just have the wise old man who we all know as Zimbabweans so I attributed all the funny quotes the silly quotes to the oldest and not so wise man I know in Zimbabwe.”
A few months ago the Zimbabwean government began crafting new legislation to allow Zimbabwe’s police to seize smartphones, laptops and other “gadgets” to prevent people from communicating via social media.
This came after several demonstrations including the #shutdown Zimbabwe, strike action which was called for by Pastor Evan Mawarire of the #Thisflag movement a few months ago. A couple more demonstration and protests by groups such as Tajamuka were organised over social media. These outbreaks of unrest have unnerved President Robert Mugabe’s bankrupt government.
The Mugabe regime is drafting a new law that will allow police to confiscate electronic equipment and raid broadband service providers. The “Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill” would empower police to intercept private communications, search and seize any “electronic gadgets,” and send any “abusers” to jail for five years.
The regime claims the new law will also help the extradition of Zimbabweans in other countries who use social media to organise protests at home.
Security agents and army panicked by civil disobedience
Speaking to the media General Philip Sibanda, the army commander, said the security forces were on “alert” to deal with any “cyber-based destabilisation” of Zimbabwe.
General Philip Sibanda went on to say;
“We are training our officers to be able to deal with this new threat we call cyber warfare where weapons — not necessarily guns but basically information and communication technology — are being used to mobilise people to do the wrong things.”
Pro-democracy organisations in Zimbabwe say they will challenge the new law in court. “We haven’t had a chance to discuss this yet, but it will be fought,” said one who asked not to be named. The legislation is expected to go before parliament by the end of this year.
Meanwhile for Shingirai Paradzai Zimbabwe remains a very dangerous place to go, indeed a no go area.