TELFORD VICE, Bulawayo
NEVER have a team who concede 117 runs and take no wickets in little more than a session of test cricket been cheered as wildly as Zimbabwe were in Bulawayo on Sunday.
It was the 36th over of the first day of the second test against New Zealand, and many in a burgeoning crowd that had been outnumbered by significantly more police than usual earlier in the day rose to declare their support.
Flags swirled with patriotic abandon as three renditions of Zimbabwe’s national anthem were warbled into a clear blue sky from three different sections of the stands.
The cricket continued, oblivious to the world beyond the boundary. What was happening in that world?
Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for 36 years, a time that started with hope and promise but has curdled into fear and loathing.
By waving their flags and singing their anthem – as they had been asked to do by Evan Mawarire, the founder of the This Flag social movement – the spectators hoped to remind the world that Zimbabwe was in dire straits.
But they were failed by television cameras that did not swivel to reveal the reality of what was happening in the crowd.
There was more reality to be seen beyond not just the boundary but the walls of the ground themselves, where a group representing Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) tried to buy tickets using crudely counterfeited currency.
The national symbol, the Zimbabwe bird, was on one side. On the other was printed, “A hungry nation is an angry nation” and “no to bond notes”.
The US dollar became the currency of choice in 2009 after Zimbabwe’s own dollar collapsed under hyperinflation.
Zimbabwe has since been financially stable, but plans to introduce US dollar-backed bond notes in October has sparked fears that an already crippled economy could implode.
Several protestors were detained by police, some on horseback, others with dogs. But WOZA founder Jenni Williams managed to wedge herself against admission gates that were hastily locked in the protestors’ faces.
“If they are refusing to allow me to pay with my bond note why are they bringing a bond note to Zimbabwe,” Williams told The Sunday Times.
“If they continue with this statutory instrument of theirs, people are going to get hungrier and angrier. If they continue with their bond note nonsense we are moving to doomsday.”
Minutes later Williams was roughly dumped into a police truck and carted away.
Police denied she had been arrested: “She has been moved because she was blocking the pavement.”
In fact the dissemination of truth was being blocked. But truth will out, and so it has.