Opposition parties should embrace citizen activism

The past  few months have seen increased citizen activism and participation on a hitherto unprecedented scale.


NewsDay Comment

From Itai Dzamara to #ThisFlag and to the protests at Beitbridge Border Post, citizens have become more emboldened and are challenging the government on a number of issues.

However, what has been critically lacking is participation by mainstream political parties, who have remained indifferent at best and at worst contemptuous of efforts by ordinary Zimbabweans to improve their situation.

The situation is ripe for political leadership in these often variegated protests and this is the time for politicians, who have mass appeal to join in.

This is not to say politicians should be at the forefront of this citizen-led activism, but rather join and endorse some of the campaigns.

For example, Dzamara was often a lone voice at Africa Unity Square demanding Mugabe steps down, imagine if a senior opposition leader had decided to join him, that protest would have resonated with many and in no time would have snowballed into something far bigger than it was.

The same goes for campaigns like This Flag and others, which, while noble, will only grow bigger if they get political endorsement.

An argument that has been proffered by some is that this new activism is nothing more than a social media and internet fad that will pass.

While this activism has reached many, opposition parties are needed to remove the campaigns from the internet and make them into something bigger that will have an effect even in rural areas, where social media reach is limited and in some cases not available.

What is important is that there be a confluence of ideas and strategies between citizen activism and political party mass mobilisation tactics.

Now is the time for opposition parties to be strategic and appropriate these campaigns and be part of this citizen-led activism.

One aspect that could be hindering political party participation are egos rampant in the opposition — that is to say, they would not want to join because it was not started by them and if they were to join, they would want to be at the forefront.

This is a fatal flaw in opposition politics, where some think they have a monopoly to ideas and challenging Zanu PF.

If the opposition were to maintain such thinking, they risk being overtaken by civilian leadership, which will ultimately spawn new parties that will takeover from those that are considered mainstream parties.

This is not the time to debate who has bigger clout or who should be at the forefront of what, what is needed is a united voice to challenge the status quo and it is clear opposition parties cannot do it alone and need citizen activism to echo their voices.

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