Connect with us

Politics and Society

#ShutdownZimbabwe: Citizens find their voice in nationwide stay-away

Zimbabweans today engaged in a mass stay-away, heeding calls by activists and union leaders (various teachers’ unions) in protest against amongst other concerns, corruption, the ailing economy and overdue civil servant salaries. Social media (WhatsApp and Internet experienced disruptions) has been awash with messages on the stay-away and shut-down.



Zimbabwe is in a precarious position, and this is by no means an exaggeration of the current state of affairs. The deteriorating economic condition and seemingly bleak social and political outlook have contributed to the simmering frustration that citizens across the political divide are experiencing, culminating in protests witnessed this week.

In the past few months, citizens have voiced their concerns and protested against the state of affairs, as the country teeters on the brink of political, economic and social uncertainty. The protests, which started early this week have fallen on deaf ears, naturally dismissed by the governing party Zanu PF as illegitimate.

Zimbabwe’s struggling economy has left many citizens vulnerable as companies continue to close. Citizens continue to lose their jobs, and the high unemployment has resulted in a greater proportion of the population joining the informal economy.

It hasn’t been easy going for those in the informal economy. Last year, hundreds of street vendors trying to eke out a living were driven out of the capital Harare’s city centre by local authorities, prompting widespread protests.

Fast forward to 2016, the economic outlook has remained uncertain, and those who are still formally employed, both in the public and private sector have had to contend with late salaries (if at all they come).

Last month, the government failed to pay all its workers (estimated workforce stands around 350 000), and instead staggered the salaries (teachers, nurses and doctors still have not received their full June salaries).

Last week, the country’s biggest and busiest border post, Beitbridge, temporarily shut down  following protests against the implementation of a controversial statutory instrument banning the importation of some goods. While the government has justified the ban as a necessary measure to protect local industries and markets, the ban has been criticised as an attack on the livelihood of cross-border traders.

Add to these prevailing challenges is worsening cash shortages, affecting businesses and citizens (and discontentment over the central bank’s proposed Bond Notes). Against the backdrop of these challenges, for the past few months, citizens have been speaking out publicly, both offline and online about their grievances, calling out the country’s leadership on corruption, poverty and poor governance.

A social media campaign, #ThisFlag, started by Evan Mawarire, a pastor in Zimbabwe has gained traction. Since the campaign started, Zimbabweans around the world have joined the campaign and they have been expressing their dissent at the state of affairs.

Read: #ThisFlag campaign inspires Zimbabweans to speak out

On Tuesday, minibus/taxi drivers and touts (hwindis) engaged in a protest accusing the police of corruption, mounting numerous and unnecessary roadblocks, which they believe are meant to fleece minibus (kombi) owners.

Against the background of the grievances by citizens, activists and unions (various teachers’ unions) announced a nationwide stay-away/shut-down (depending on your allegiance) in protest against amongst other concerns, corruption, the ailing economy and overdue civil servant salaries.

By and large, the peaceful stay-away/shut down has been a success and citizens have heeded calls by activists and union leaders.

Numerous shops and businesses in Harare remained closed during the day, while informal business premises in townships around Harare (Gazaland home industrial site in Highfield, and Glenview Home Industry) recorded low business activity, a vindication of these mass action calls.

Reports on social media suggest that many people in other towns and cities across the country (Bulawayo and Masvingo) have also heeded calls by activists and union leaders.


While the internet was disrupted and the social media application WhatsApp was inaccessible for the most part of the morning‚ the disruption did not deter people from sharing their experiences of the stay-away/shutdown.

Here are some of the social media posts on the stay-away/shutdown.

And of course, denial from Zanu PF officials