Zimbabwean Civil Society under Pressure: Where to after the Coup?


Shortly before the coup, the offices of HBF partner Magamba Network were raided and a team member arrested. Magamba's Tongai Makawa provides an update and reflects on the implications of the military takeover.

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Tongai Makawa at Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum 2017

HBF: Shortly before the coup, your office was raided and your equipment was confiscated. Why did that happen, and where are you standing now?

Makawa: Our offices were raided on the afternoon of Tuesday last week, a few hours before reports of military movement was being shared on various social media platforms. The targeting of Magamba Network has long since been apparent from the attention our various projects have been receiving from state owned media outlets. Projects such as Shoko Festival and productions like Zambezi News and The Week have always given us attention from state forces in different departments, the city council and police officers from Peace and Order units. This spate however came directly after the arrest of our Magamba TV Project Officer who was charged under trumped up allegations including being the mastermind behind Magamba Network as well as the Open Parly social media handle, @Matigari. The charges of subverting a constitutionally elected government were preferred against Martha and are what the organisation is also being charged with.

How is Martha, and, how do you think, will the court-case develop with the changed situation?

Martha has since been released on bail pending her court trial dates which are still pending. She is said to be in good spirits. All efforts to contact her have been fruitless as she is now under the stewardship of the United States Embassy. There isn't even any communications through our lawyers as they have also been instructed to cut all communications and focus on the case. The landscape seems to be morphing with each passing day, our only hope is that her issue is brought before the courts soon and resolved as there really is no matter worth pursuing. We also hope that the shift in power dynamics can also allow the judiciary system to take due course without any political interference or pressure so a fair trial can take place.

What do you, as a civil society activist, think of the coup, and how it will impact civil society?

There are multifaceted issues at play currently. On a personal level I for one am happy to see any form of change in leadership, however am weary to support it on the basis of how the change is achieved. The very nature of a coup would imply the high-jacking of constitutional provisions by persons who are not entirely blameless for past atrocities, thus it appears as progress, but progress towards what becomes the question. For civil society the function is and will always remain to play the accountability watchdog and defend human right as well as bring accountability to our APPOINTED leaders.

We assume that when you were born, Mugabe was already in power. What does the possible end of the Mugabe era mean for Zimbabwe's youth?

I am under no illusions to the fact that Mugabe acted alone in running down our country. What we are dealing with is a system that is 37 years in place. I honestly do not believe that the ceremonial removal of this symbol will bring about significant change unless the system that is entrenched in all arms of government is adaptable to inclusion and reform and growth beyond political affiliations.

What would you like to see happen next, and how realistic is it?

I would like to see an inclusive running of the nation where party politics are not a matter of life and death when they are discussed. More meaningful empowerment drives and better resource utilisation by the government into its people. Where there is no hero worshiping of figures we put into power to represent peoples’ interests - as already is the case with the army and the general. Where opposing views do not result in non-dialogue or violence. In order for Zimbabwe to be on the path to economic recovery it will need regional and international relations to be strengthened and whoever fills the shoes of President Mugabe will have to adopt meaningful reforms in order to achieve this. Beyond that there is need for national reconciliation and accountability. That I believe will be the uphill challenge.