Harare – An elderly caller to a radio show is being feted on social media in Zimbabwe Tuesday as the unlikely voice of a disenchanted nation.
“Mbuya vaHector” (Hector’s grandmother) told the host of a popular radio show on ZiFM station that she was 62, but had no savings.
“We are afraid to speak out,” she told Ruvenheko Parirenyatwa, who was interviewing Evan Mawarire, the founder of Zimbabwe’s growing #ThisFlag movement.
Mbuya vaHector’s tired voice was heard by Zimbabweans glued to their radios or mobile phones.
What she said appeared to have resonated with many.
Thousands of Zimbabweans lost their life savings at the height of the pre-2009 economic crisis, when inflation reached an official 231 million percent (the estimated “real” rate was in the billions).
The fear of that happening again following the reserve bank governor’s announcement earlier this month that he would soon introduce “bond notes” – Zimbabwe’s local version of the US dollar – has sent many Zimbabweans scurrying to empty their accounts.
Corruption and poverty
The ZiFM radio interview with Mawarire on Monday night sparked much interest. Mawarire began his #ThisFlag movement on social media as a way of expressing his frustration with corruption and poverty in Zimbabwe.
The 39-year-old father of two encouraged locals to purchase and wear national flags as a way of expressing both their allegiance to Zimbabwe and their dissatisfaction with what the country has become, 36 years after independence.
Zimbabweans were also overlaying their profile pictures with the Zimbabwean flag to show their agreement with what Mawarire is saying.
But government ministers and Zanu-PF apologists hit out at #ThisFlag, with Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo calling Mawarire a “pastor for hire” and describing the movement as “hateful”.
There was speculation that the pastor might not be allowed to have his say during the interview and some listeners were dismayed when the host announced that a political analyst would also be taking part in the discussion.
Though touted as a “private” commercial radio station, ZiFM is actually owned by Supa Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe’s IT minister.
As Tafadzwa Musarara tried to rubbish Mawarire on air, calling him a “young man” and saying he was too “emotional”, social media users soon dug up photos of the “analyst” with Mandiwanzira and other Zanu-PF officials, throwing into question his impartiality.
The fiery interview was on Tuesday taken down from Soundcloud, likely on the orders of the authorities.
But sneak footage of Mandiwanzira shouting at Mawarire in the radio studios shortly after the interview ended has been posted to Twitter.
Meantime, Hector’s grandma was a trending topic on Monday. Tweeted Mawarire (@PastorEvanLive): “Mbuya vaHector! She was our ace. She won the battle 4 every Zimbabwean.”
Hours after the interview, more than 1 300 people had shared a Mbuya vaHector graphic on Facebook.
“There’s a new icon for Zimbabwe’s struggle – #MbuyaVaHector”, posted FB user Simba Siege Musonza. Twitter user @Tawand89 said: “Mbuya vaHector spoke for us all.”