A vocal group of Zimbabweans have begun a series of protests outside the United Nations (UN) in New York as the movement to stop the rule of President Robert Mugabe, which has spanned over three decades, gathers steam. This comes just as world leaders, including Mugabe, gather for the 71st session of the General Assembly.
In a gathering that brought together a number of groups that included the “This Flag” movement under Pastor Evans Mawarire, Zimbabweans are now talking their calls for a political change to the seat of international diplomacy.
Among the protestors is the brother of Itai Dzamara, a journalist and pro-democracy activist who remains missing after allegedly being abducted 18-months ago in Harare.
Dr Noah Manyika of the “Build Zimbabwe” movement is also a pastor based in Charlotte North Carolina. He says, “We have come to that point in our country where we simply need to make a statement even to the international community, as Zimbabweans, that says enough is enough. Our goal in the organisation that I lead is to accomplish an unprecedented mobilization and engagement of Zimbabweans and friends of Zimbabwe, everywhere, to bring about political change in 2018 and to build our country thereafter.”
Abducted activist, Itai Dzamara’s brother Patson came to New York specifically for this series of protests. “This is a culmination of several processes and I’d say that one of the individuals who actually blazed the trail for this citizen social movement, is my brother, Itai. He stood alone in African Union (AU) Square, saying Mugabe must step down because he’s failed to manage the affairs of our nation and that culminated in what we are seeing. Fire spreading and the citizens of Zimbabwe are actually galvanizing around that core of retrieving Zimbabwe out of this pit of failure,” he says.
He says his brother’s fate is relatively unknown. When asked if he thinks he is alive, “It’s neither here nor there. After 18 months we’re not sure what’s really happening. Of course we have managed to gather some information which we are still processing together with the legal team, but as far as his fate is concerned, we cannot be categorical about it.”
The protestors are angry at a government and president they believe has forsaken their interests for the sake of power. Savanna Madamombe, one of the organisers and leads the One Zimbabwe movement says, “We need to speak with one voice, we finally have found our voice, we cannot let anyone stop us. We need to make sure the people that are running any party that is coming up understand that we are not going to be used by one person who is feathering their agendas.”
A protestor says, “My message to President Mugabe is: When we came out independent, when we were born you promised us a future. We got educated and now we want to promise our kids the same future but you have totally failed us and it’s time for the whole system, not just the President himself, but the whole system, the structure, the ZANU-PF structure, just has to go.”
Mugabe is due to arrive in the city shortly after attending the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Venezuela. He’ll address the General Assembly on Wednesday.