By Dirk Frey
So it looks like #ThisFlag honeymoon is over.
Evan Mawarire is now reportedly camped in the USA, and the once united social media movement is disintegrating and imploding.
I see a bunch of folks hurt and disappointed at Pastor Evan gapping it overseas (despite so many others having done so). I understand the disappointment, but I’m not one of them.
Perhaps we put too much faith in a man who is, after all, only human. For all we have gone through at the hands of the present system, we have not learnt that freedom cannot be delivered by one man, neither should one man embody a liberation movement, even as just the mere face of it.
An old saying says, “habits become character”, but if the habit of making saviors out of ordinary man is now character, then our entire hopes of a free Zimbabwe may soon be up in flames.
Yet, that may not be the only habit we have succumbed to. On the other side of the same coin are Evan’s cheerleaders – The diehard supporters for whom he can do no wrong.
I have much less sympathy for them and their abrasive attitude, making jokes at the expense of people crushed dreams, whether those dreams were realistic in the first place or not.
I’m not a fan. It’s the same sort of hero-worship by Zimbabweans that I have condemned elsewhere, and the fact it’s happening on our side won’t stop me from condemning it now.
We need to take a long hard look at ourselves, my friends.
As for Mawarire himself… I neither bash him nor adulate him. I like the guy. When he did his first video, the rest of us said to ourselves ‘This is a good thing. This guy’s saying the right things, he’s likeable, he has charisma. He has a gift when it comes to talking. Let’s help him do this, let’s support him.’
And we did.
I had my doubts but I gave him the benefit of one. I watched him step up to the plate, put himself out there and accept the responsibility of what he had stumbled into. I am proud of him and give him due credit for launching #ThisFlag
That said, he is only human. This is not an easy road. And even if you are as stubbornly tough as Patson Dzamara, fiercely brave as Stan Zvorwadza or an undefeatable superwoman like Linda Masarira, it takes its toll.
The sleepless nights, the anxiety, the abduction attempts, the fear, the energy, the task, and the fight itself take their toll on you. Physically, mentally, and for those that delve, even spiritually, it wears you down.
Evan made his decision to leave, and it is his decision. Those who second-guess it aren’t in his shoes, whether we agree with it or not. From the position of a man who has been part of the struggle for so long, I respect his decision to make his decision.
Surely, a lot of people are deflated, confused, and the movement has been disrupted in some way. But Mawarire’s decision offers us an opportunity to reflect.
Perhaps this is a learning moment. Perhaps we need to learn not to elevate our leaders to superhero status. Perhaps we shouldn’t give all our eggs to one guy to carry. Perhaps it’s time for this superhero Pastor to find his way back down to earth.
And perhaps it’s past time that others in #ThisFlag movement stepped up to the plate, so that the statement that its ‘not all about Pastor E’ doesn’t stay a slightly sheepish defense.
- Dirk Frey is an activist. Article appears on Khuluma Afrika.