A Straightforward Guide to the Zim Uprising of 2016

With so much happening in Zimbabwe right now we’ve prepared a straightforward guide to #ThisFlag and #ShutdownZimbabwe2016

The tumultuous events that started three months ago in Zimbabwe have caught the eyes, and the hearts, of Zimbabweans all over the globe. The scenes of protest crossing our newsfeeds have forced many of us to stop and re-evaluate our relationship to the Zimbabwean government and the country itself. Myself included.

Videos of police brutality amid peaceful citizens’ protests and other scenes of turmoil have simultaneously touched and overwhelmed. My contribution has been to shed light on our Great Zimbabwe from my keyboard, attempting to highlight through my writing the various campaigns from the #ThisFlag movement, to #ShutDownZimbabwe2016, to #BeatThePot, to the upcoming #ThisGown demo. These are events that will go down in Zimbabwean history no matter what happens next.

Last Tuesday in particular was a day we’ll never forget. A day in which Zimbabweans in the country and throughout the diaspora displayed true camaraderie. With so much happening we’ve prepared a straightforward guide to the Zim uprising of 2016.

The Hashtags

#ThisFlag: The movement was started by Pastor Evan Mawarire in April 2016 when the 39-year-old Baptist minister and activist took to social media to record a video of himself explaining the colours of the Zimbabwean flag, what they represented and how that hasn’t been the case these past 36 years. In doing so, Mawarire reclaimed the Zimbabwean flag as a symbol of protest.

#Tajamuka: A movement to highlight and showcase how fed up the citizens are with Zimbabwe. In English, Tajamuka simply translates to, "having had enough, therefore doing something about it." The citizens are no longer willing to allow the government to dictate how they live in their own country.

#ShutDownZimbabwe2016: Mawarire set these peaceful protests in motion when he called for a national stayaway on 6 July. A second shutdown followed over the course of two days last Wednesday and Thursday.

#BeatThePot: Zimbabwe's women's-led campaign was founded by MDC-T Vice President Thokozani Khupe. Starting in the city of Bulawayo, thousands of women across Zimbabwe beat their pots as a symbol of the hunger and poverty they face under the ZANU-PF-led government.

The Key Players

The Government: There were five demands made towards the government in the aftermath of the first #ShutDownZimbabwe2016. A number of citizens said that if these weren't moved forward, a second shutdown would occur. To no surprise, nothing moved forward, and another shutdown took place last Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Citizens: The people of Zimbabwe have had enough of the ZANU-PF-led government’s rampant corruption, harsh economic conditions and injustice. The citizens have awoken a beast within themselves and are making their grievances known. It’s been 36 years of independence and the situation is still dire.

Pastor Evan Mawarire: The man of the hour, as we may respectfully say, and the reason Zimbabweans are as woke as ever. Pastor Evan Mawarire started #ThisFlag in April when he took to social media to speak peacefully about the situation in Zim and asked Zimbabweans around the world to do the same.

The Key Issues

Corruption within the government: The ZANU-PF-led government, which has been in rule for the past 36 years, are feeding the citizens a facade of dreams. Take the ignorance they displayed towards the missing 15 billion from the country, for instance. Rather absurd how such an amount of money just ceases to disappear. Then there was the case of the promised two-million jobs to citizens. In that same year, over 100 employees from different companies, who had worked for over 15 years or more, were let go from their jobs with no pension plan. Itai Dzamara is a brave young man who comes to mind, who is now an abducted youth activist. This is the thing with the Zimbabwean government––if you don’t play the game with the moves they want, you’re eliminated.

Workers not being paid salaries for months: Zimbabwean employees have been working for months with no pay. The main excuse has been that the country has no money. Ironic considering the many ministers that can be spotted in exuberant luxury cars. Due to employees not being paid, there is a dire need of desperation in which it’s not uncommon to see well-educated citizens resorting to selling airtime or tomatoes on the side of the highway.

Police who are meant to protect and serve us are beating up peaceful protesting citizens: Live footage of the police beating peaceful protesting citizens to a pulp have been all over the internet after the commencement of the #ThisFlag movement. Citizens finally have the courage to stand up to their marginalizers and say enough is enough.

Twitter Feeds to Follow

@TrevornNcube: The publisher of Mail & Guardian is a Zimbabwean now living in South Africa. However, he has a very broad view on the politics happening in Zimbabwe.

@Wamagaisa: A lawyer, academic and writer on Zimbabwean law and politics with unbiased and uncensored views on the events currently happening in Zimbabwe.

@ConcernedZimCit: Citizens speaking out on everything that has to do with the #ThisFlag movement, and calling out the Zimbabwean government.

@NewsDayZimbabwe: Always has the latest breaking news on Zimbabwe, wherever it is.

@ZimMediaReview: Unbiased account reviewing the media content of Zimbabwe.

The fight for a better Zimbabwe has only just begun. Here's what you should keep an eye on

#ThisGown: "This Gown Demands Job Demo," in which Zimbabwean graduates will demonstrate to demand jobs, is scheduled to take place on 25th July.

Demonstrations for a better Zimbabwe: From Zimbabweans all over the globe. There's one happening in London on 23 July at Richmond Terrace, Opposite 10 Downing Street.

Lerato Chiyangwa is a Zimbabwean communications and public relations executive based in Dubai. Keep up with her on Twitter at @leratochiyangwa.

Image: Courtesy TIFF

Jenna Cato Bass is Capturing the Horrors of an Unhealed Nation

The film marks the South African director's third debut and stride towards making a name for herself in the international film circuit.

Ever since premiering her debut film, Love the One You Love, which won the Best Feature Film at the Jozi Festival in 2015, Jenna Cato Bass has been a name to watch on the international film festival circuit. Her 2017 feature, High Fantasy, was the first of her films to land on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup, followed by Flatland in 2019. Her latest offering, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), debuted at TIFF in September of 2021 — marking her third time at the esteemed Canadian film event.

Often provocative, always thought-provoking, Bass' films have come to establish her as a director who looks at South Africa's youth, the lives they're living and the future that awaits them, with a nuanced, open-minded lens. For the first time in her career, Bass uses the genre of horror to dig into an enduring mark of the country's past — that of the fraught, complex relationship between madam and domestic worker, in Mlungu Wam (Good Madam). Set in Cape Town, the film follows the unusual, disturbing things that start happening when a young woman moves back in with her estranged mother, who is the longtime caretaker for a rich, white household.

Bass also co-wrote the film Tug of War (Vuta N'Kuvute), which became Tanzania's first film to be selected for TIFF this year, and she co-wrote Rafiki, which was Kenya's first film at TIFF in 2018.

She spoke to OkayAfrica about playing in a new genre and her hopes for African cinema.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

This story revolves around the relationship between a domestic worker and her 'madam.' What made you want to make a film about this subject?

When I make films, I like the concept to revolve around something that we all have in common - because, despite the many fractures in our society, these shared places exist. And in South Africa, we felt that everyone - in some way or another - has been deeply affected by domestic work and domestic workers, who are a keystone in our society's structure. Additionally, the 'maid' and 'madam' relationship is the ultimate symbol of race relations in South Africa - as well as how they haven't changed significantly, despite almost thirty years of democracy. So a domestic worker was the perfect character around which to centre a South African horror.

The genre of horror works really well to explore this subject and tell this story — when did you know it would be the genre you'd want to use?

The early stages of developing a film aren't always linear for me. I'll be thinking about a genre I'm interested in, and then parallel to that I'll have an idea for a story or a character, and later on, will realize that these pieces all fit together. In this case, I'd been wanting to make a horror film for ages, but hadn't found the right story… until I had the idea for Mlungu Wam, and I realized I was finally ready to try this genre.

What challenges did you face in making a horror?

It was my first time working in this genre, and it was intimidating because there's no saving you if you fail. We were also working on a very, very limited budget, so it wasn't possible to show as much as we'd like to - but then again, this story was all about the subjective and the unseen, so I did as much research and planning as we could, and just had to trust it would work.

Where did you film, and did that have any impact on the process at all?

We filmed in a house in Cape Town, in a gated community in the Southern Suburbs. The house and the environment had a major impact on the film - especially because we were also quarantining there for the full 7 weeks of rehearsal and shooting. The house was our set and our accommodation, so it was very intense, very claustrophobic, and very triggering for many of our team members.

How did you and co-writer Babalwa Baartman work on the story? You've included cast members in the writing process in your previous work — did you do that here too?

Mlungu Wam was made along similar lines to my first two films, Love The One You Love and High Fantasy, where we started with an outline, cast actors, then workshopped the characters collaboratively before completing the story breakdown and using improv for the dialogue. Babalwa and I had worked together using this method on a short film we made in 2019 called Sizohlala. She really understands the process, and it was a really rewarding experience exploring the story with her and our cast.

How did Kristina Ceyton, who produced the excellent acclaimed horrors The Babadook and The Nightingale, through Causeway Films, come to be involved in this film?

I had met Sam Jennings, who is also a producer with Causeway Films, several years ago at a festival. We really connected and kept in touch over the years, sharing our work, and hoping there'd be a chance to collaborate. So when we were developing Mlungu Wam, I pitched her and Kristina the concept and they were immediately supportive. It has been a massive pleasure working with them both.

Your films are known to venture into themes of identity and healing from the past — how does this film speak to that?

Mlungu Wam is definitely about this too - it's a story about three generations of women (actually four, if you include Tsidi's grandmother, who is an unseen character in the film), how they are haunted by the past and eventually refuse to remain chained any longer. Their healing is collective, linked to each other, and wouldn't be possible for them alone as individuals.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

You've been at TIFF before - how has your experience of it been this year, with it being a hybrid of virtual and in-person?

Things have been quieter and a bit harder to navigate, but the TIFF staff have done incredible work getting the festival off the ground, despite endless challenges. It has felt very surreal to be here, and a privilege - and inspiring too, that we can still get together to celebrate films, even though our world is in such a mess. We had over 200 (socially distanced) people at our last screening, and that was an amazing feeling.

Yours is one of few African films on this year's line-up - is there anything you'd like to see happen to try improve that?

Regarding African cinema, TIFF has a real range of films this year, across several sections. Compared to many other festivals, they seem really invested in supporting cinema from the continent. Of course, this could be better, but it's also an example to other festivals who claim there aren't enough African films, that this is clearly not the case.

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