Could a social media hashtag – tapping into the energy and anger of the global #BlackLivesMatter phenomenon – help achieve in Zimbabwe what years of street protests, strikes and political campaigns have so clearly failed to do?
Over the last few days, in response to a particularly brutal, public, widespread, and on-going clampdown by security forces, the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has gone viral, globally.
Celebrities like rappers Ice Cube, AKA and Lecrae and actresses Thandie Newton and Pearl Thusi have expressed support for – or at least interest in – what appears to be an exploding grassroots campaign against the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who took over from former leader Robert Mugabe.
“It captured the imagination of the population. Citizens coming together. I think this is what the whole world felt,” said the novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga of the hashtag and the non-political movement behind it.
She was arrested by troops last Friday, and later charged and released, after taking part in a planned street protest which the government described as an attempted “insurrection” by “terrorists”.