Collective paranoia. Patriots or protesters.
It could be described as collective paranoia. Is the Zimbabwe flag a symbol of patriotism or is it a symbol of protest?
This is a question for all those who have miniatures of the flag mounted on a stick in their cars and for anyone proud of the national colours. Should we brandish a flag to coincide with public holidays this week honouring liberation fighters and the armed forces on the Heroes Day and Armed Forces Day?
In the past, there were flags and bunting displayed everywhere on days of national celebration. The popular #This Flag Movement of protest against poverty and catastrophic governance that mushroomed on social media in recent months has changed that. How will bearing a flag, however innocently, be construed?
#This Flag campaigner Pastor Evan Mawarire and supporters swathe the flag around their shoulders. Opposition members of parliament have followed suit in the House of Assembly – to the anger of members of Mr Mugabe’s party, some of whom wear lapel badges of the flag, and the Speaker.
Ministers and securocrats have now declared war on social media and what they call cyber terrorism that means to spur protests and cause unrest. When does peacefully waving the flag become cyber terrorism in all this paranoia and fear over what might happen if it persists, as seems likely?
This year’s Heroes Day has coincided with unprecedented divisions within the war veterans. The independent daily NewsDay reported on how disillusioned some genuine veterans are – the older ones, not the youth who claimed veteran status after plundering farms since 2000 – with Mr Mugabe’s leadership.
The newspaper reported ‘War vets thumb their nose at Mugabe.’ As it happened, whoever wrote the billboard for that day’s issue had it down in large black lettering : ‘WAR VETS THUMP THEIR NOSE AT MUGABE.’
It is a common mistake in Zimlish when to thumb the nose becomes to thump the nose, conveying a wonderful image of someone punching his own nose in anger at something or anything.
The particular billboard in my neighbourhood became the subject of a heated argument and scuffles, presumably between for and against factions, and it was torn down and torn up. This shred remained on the pavement afterwards. Or maybe the scuffle had just been begun by unemployed #This Gown university graduates protesting against the wording.