By Nkosana Dlamini
The tough crust of pro-democracy and rights activists who gave late former President Robert Mugabe sleepless nights during his rule, have all disappeared for one reason or another under new President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Activists who come to mind are Lovemore Madhuku, Evan Mawarire, Linda Masarira, Lynette Mudewe, Pride Mkono, Sylvanos Mudzova, Sten Zvorwadza, Promise Mkwananzi and the Dzamara brothers – Itai and Patson.
Patson Dzamara has since died while his elder brother Itai disappeared without trace 2015.
Mugabe, at his time, was viewed as cut from the rough cloth of Africa’s old-fashioned detectors who brooked no opposition to their rule.
But streets were still frequented by activists who would set up vigils for days at Africa Unity Square in Harare to affirm their strong beliefs.
Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe, is seen as no different from his former boss and yet basks in the relative joys of ruling with less hindrance from the once firebrand activists.
Mkono attributed the new situation to what he described as “change of context”.
“There has been targeting of activists especially through abductions which has made the environment very dangerous,” he told Zimstar News.
The former student activist said some of his erstwhile allies have been coopted into the system by Mnangagwa.
Arts activist Mudzova, now studying in Manchester, UK, insists he would invade the streets had he still been in the country.
He describes himself as an action person who does not believe in keyboard activism but direct street confrontation with authorities to make his voice heard.
“I am more of an on the ground person whereby the actions that I do using my art, I hope to influence people directly so that they can gain confidence to go onto the streets to demand change on things that are a problem.
“Being outside Zimbabwe makes it very difficult for me because I am not a social media activist…it is not my thing. I realised one would only be speaking to the converted. What change are you actually bringing?”
Masarira, now leader of opposition Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats maintains she has not disappeared from the front.
“As a matter of fact, Linda Masarira hasn’t disappeared. If anything, she’s actually upped her game. As a President of an alternative to bad governance (Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats) she has matured.”
She added, “It’s unfortunate that as Zimbabweans, our media is so sensationalized and polarized that we don’t appreciate efforts being done. If you look at our petition to parliament over child access to Sexual Reproduction and Contraceptives, our recent Constitutional Court challenge on the rights of the girl child it can be deduced that Linda Masarira is still on the map doing functional politics.
“It’s just unfortunate that she’s not up to criticizing everything as she focuses on issues that affect real people on the ground and her political enemies take advantage of that.”