Flier being circulated towards President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday
Harare; February 1, 2017 – A social movement under the #21dayscampaign hashtag has launched a campaign to protest until President Robert Mugabe’s birthday as he turns 93 years old on February 21.
The campaign hopes to gain the support of students, vendors, human rights activists, media, residents and other social groups in its bid to highlight 21 issues affected the country under the current government.
One of the digital fliers being circulated by the #21dayscampaign on online social platforms such as WhatsApp read: “Mr President, 21 issues that have to be addressed before you eat your cake. By the Citizens of Zimbabwe.”
The movement will tackle the following issues: eviction of vendors from streets, corruption, electoral reforms, women’s rights, unemployment, access to natural resources, presidential age limit, student welfare, national peace and reconciliation, cash crisis, state of prisons, alignment of laws to the constitution, disability issues, human rights, access to health care, service delivery, devolution of power, media and freedom of expression, police brutality and constitutionalism.
Year in, year out, President Mugabe’s birthday approach has been characterised by the ruling party’s youth league, under the banner of the 21st February Movement, fundraising and praising his supposedly iconic status, ending as usual with thousands of buoyant supporters watching the cutting of a huge cake in a stadium.
But, for challengers of the government’s 37 year record which includes human rights abuses, this year is certainly different.
On the first day, Wednesday, February 1, the protestors handed a letter to the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises and the Mayor of Harare, against the proposed eviction of vendors from the streets.
“We the bona fide citizens of Zimbabwe are disturbed and moved by the pronouncement by the inter-ministerial committee and the city of Harare to the effect that vending must be banned in Harare due to the outbreak of typhoid,” the letter reads in part.
“Bearing in mind, we are however opposed to the move to solely blame the vendors for the outbreak of typhoid as a number of factors have contributed to this unfortunate situation.
“The city of Harare must take responsibility for failing to provide clean and safe water for drinking, collect refuse and fix burst water pipes – factors which have escalated the spread of typhoid.”
The #21dayscampaign said in the letter that the government must create formal jobs if it felt uncomfortable with the surge in vending activities.
“The government should ensure there is a transition from the informal economy to a formalised economy which could help reduce the number of vendors on the streets,” said the protestors in the letter, which was stamped by the Parliament and Mayor’s office in acknowledgement of receiving it.
“In our view, this can be mitigated through the ability of the state to create employment.
“Zimbabwe is now largely an informal economy and denying the fact that vending has become a livelihood for most people would be a fallacy.”
Recently, a typhoid outbreak affected 200 people and killed two in Harare.
Speaking to the ZimRights’ Human Rights Update on Wednesday about Thursday (February 2)’s follow up activities one of the activists, Linda Masarira, who won a human rights accolade with ZimRights in 2016, said: “Tomorrow we are dealing with media and freedom of expression.”
The campaign is expected to stage a daily cocktail of protest action for the entire 21 days.