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Evan Mawarire where are you?

14 Aug 2016 at 16:47hrs | Views

"Leadership to me, is really about being in a position to face the same risk and take the same bold steps that you expect those who choose to follow you to mirror"

I was watching a video on youtube the other day on how to start a movement. In it, one guy who stands up in the crowd and starts a dance, as he dances away, another person joins him and starts to also dance in a similar manner, and then another and then another and soon, all the people there stand up and join the dance. That's is powerful example of leadership and effectiveness to gain loyal followers and cause change.

This then brings me to the issue of #ThisFlag's Evan Mawarire's sudden departure from Zimbabwe and the subsequent questions, observations and visible frustrations among those who believe. Advocate Fadzayi Mahere on her face book post has raised some pertinent and critical issues on leadership that need attention. I see there has been a virtual storm on the same issue on twitter with my competent brother Alex Magaisa inadvertently playing moderator.

Alex, as usual, makes some very valid observations on the issue with his responses, particularly on the necessity for us to be able to boldly question, without fear or consequence, those who choose to assume leadership positions as Fadzayi has done. He also raises the need for those who choose to lead to be able follow through and finish what they have started if they are to gain authenticity and respect from those who might choose to follow them. I agree with him on same.

Let me start by saying that my initial reaction to Evan Mawarire leaving the country was surprise and disappointment, but then I got to think after the effect that we don't really want dead heroes do we? Life first. However there certainly have been some negative consequences to his decision to leave and we must openly talk about that. There is therefore absolutely nothing wrong with Fadzayi helping us to talk about it openly and honestly.

Interestingly, I sadly noticed some responses to Fadzayi's observations on the issue from some knit pickers who have clearly failed to deal with the principle raised therein. I hope I can do that here, and rather focus on the message than the messenger.

In my opinion, the most evident consequences of Evan's decision to leave Zimbabwe have been first, a damper in the momentum for change which he was instrumental in fuelling by his local presence through his daily videos. Second, some questions by followers on his authenticity and legitimacy as a fighter and leader, and third, the perceived "triumph" of the regime to intimidate emerging change agents such as Evan and potentially nip a citizen's revolution in the bud.

I also have had very interesting conversations with my colleagues in politics on the issue of citizens' movements and their effectiveness in causing sustainable political and social change. Their view, which I now think is correct although I argued vociferously against it when it arose, is that politicians, despite the citizens' valid concerns with regard to their ultimate motives, are critical in the cocktail for social change in Zimbabwe whether we like it or not.

Their argument was that #This Flag movement seemed to be against politicians and this meant that the movement would not be able to sustain the momentum for political and social change in Zimbabwe on its own. That is the correct view in my "new" opinion on the subject matter. We definitely need convergence of political and social movements. The sooner we all converge, the better chances we have to achieve our ultimate objective of the removal of the dictator and his coterie of thieves who continue to arrest our progress and plunder our resources. But I digress!

In my opinion, leadership, especially in these turbulent and uncertain times in Zimbabwe, is a complex issue and is an art and rather than a science. This therefore means that, there is no one correct answer or set formula on how to lead as it naturally depends on a lot of variables. More important, it really depends on one's appetite for and emotional preparedness or readiness for risk taking which certainly varies from person to person.

One thing I have noticed in Zimbabwe politics is that although one may represent the interests of many and be prepared to fight on behalf of the people, in the end of it all, one tends to face the music alone. This has been the case with many politicians who have come before us to challenge the status quo. Zimbabweans are generally cowards and arm chair analysts who want someone else out there to fight for them while they watch and criticise. At times it's just not worth it to risk your life unless you are "on purpose".

The most recent example for me is that of Linda Masarira who is in jail alone as we speak and her only crime has been to dream and fight for your freedom and mine at her own personal risk. Very few of us have assisted her or even visited her. Nelson Mandela, Morgan Tsvangirai, Leopold Takawira, Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Robert Mugabe, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Mahmta Gandhi, Itai Dzamara and many more others suffered personally as they fought for the freedom of others but again, this was a personal choice they made. So ultimately, it would appear to me that one has to make a personal choice of what consequences they are prepared to suffer for others and expect nothing in return especially from those that may benefit.

Evan Mawarire made his choice, but that does not and should not diminish his contribution nor should it stop us fighting and carrying on where he left it. We have young brave men here in Zimbabwe like Sten Zvorwadza, Acie Lumumba, Patson Dzamara, those in #Tajamuka and #Thisgown and numerous others, who are prepared to fight at all costs here in Zimbabwe on the battlefront and in the process face tremendous personal risk. I really think that we should support them and rather focus on them as a source of encouragement and motivation to continue to fight for our freedom and for the ultimate demise of the dictator.

Having said the above, I still think that leadership is really about setting an example. Leadership to me is being in a position to face the same risk and taking the same bold steps that you may expect those who follow you to mirror. I think that Evan would have been more effective here in Zimbabwe on the battle front than posting videos from outside the country. Leaving was a mistake.

I imagined a general in war times, who rallies and motivates his troops to fight but soon disappears from the battlefront and then posts letters from elsewhere to the troops on the ground to keep fighting. That is hardly inspiring nor effective is it?

We must therefore not downplay the reality that Zimbabweans need to be led on the ground and Evan has certainly let them down on that score. The dangerous if not naïve response by him can't be to say we are all leaders, that is a myth and self-serving. Of course he had his valid reasons for leaving and we must respect that, but he certainly has could have communicated better-another critical leadership trait.

Ultimately, we must each make a personal choice of what role we want to play in the struggle to create a new Zimbabwe and from where. The choice we make will have consequences and the question in the end will always be what we are prepared to do, how effective we want to be and what risk we are prepared to face alone to make that a reality.

The struggle must continue!

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. He is also Secretary for Finance and Economic Affairs for PDP. You may contact him on

Source - Vince Musewe
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