Saturday, 22 March 2008

Ziso: 'Red and Yellow Dance for Change'

Zimbabwe, 22 March

‘Lets get Zimbabwe working again’ is the simple campaign slogan. The parliamentary and senatorial candidates travel from constituency to constituency supporting each other’s rallies. ‘Simba kuVanhu’ is the chant – ‘Power to the People’ (a clever play on words). In Hatcliffe, a crowd draws round the campaigners, skeptical at first but slowly intrigued by the speeches. Is Fay Chung going to speak in Shona? She breaks the ice with her opener, “Sei muZhingzhong anokwanisa kutaura Shona?” (“Do you wonder who is this ‘zhing-zhong’ (slang for Chinese) who can speak Shona?) “How many people here have jobs?” she asks. “Hapana!” shouts the crowd (‘we don’t have!) A punter on the street tells me, “I won’t vote for Mugabe because he’s the reason that I had to leave college. With him a doctorate holder will be forced to be a tomato vendor”. And Tsvangirai? “The last time I voted for him, but it didn’t bring any change, so I’m not voting for him this time.”

Trudy Stevenson, Arthur Mutambara, Rudo Gaidzanwa and Fay Chung

In Avondale, at Trudy Stevenson’s rally a fascinating collaboration is taking place. The red of MDC mingles with the yellow of the Makoni camp. Behind the table sits Trudy Stevenson, one of Tsvangirai’s earliest and most hard-working supporters who now protests his autocratic leadership. Beside her is Arthur Mutambara, whose withdrawal of his nomination for presidency has allowed many former MDC supporters to rally behind Makoni. Fay Chung and Rudo Gaizdanwa sit in yellow, two former members of ZANU, now women leaders in the Makoni camp. MDC slogans are shouted, “Change! Change!” followed by Makoni chants. Activists in yellow dance with MDC supporters in red, the Zimbabwean flag waving above them. There is a sense of real camaraderie between former ZANU and MDC activists, a sense of reconciliation and moving forward. Trudy reminds the crowd that people from ZANU can change, after all Morgan Tsvangirai was once a member of ZANU!

Change happening at a grassroots level

A vibrant dialogue takes place between the leaders and the crowd who burst into song at any pause. “We are not fighting the white man,” shouts the chair, “we are fighting a system that needs to be dismantled!” Mutambara is the final speaker; he is vibrant and charismatic, “Be the change you wish to see in your country.” The rally ends in song. The atmosphere is festive and colourful, the leaders black, white, Shona, Ndebele and Asian, the crowd full of MDC and ex-ZANU supporters, with the odd real war veteran and white suburban. A reminder of the rainbow nation Zimbabwe boasted of being in the eighties before the flames of racism were once more inflamed.

Anticipation is growing for the Makoni rally on Monday in Highfield, the climax of the Easter weekend.

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