This may explain why President Mnangagwa has been so keen to defang this imagery and present a new “patriotic” symbol since he rose to office, adamantly wearing the flag-scarf even in 30 degree heat.
The ZANU-PF stalwart was the Justice Minister when Zimbabwe’s legal system was unleashed in all its vengeance on Mawarire, but irony alone has not stopped him appropriating the very same strategy for which the pastor was punished and denigrated.
When Mawarire used Zimbabwe’s flag to express himself, the government accused him of bringing it into disrepute and of trying to “create chaos and disorder”.
But now Mnangagwa has co-opted the very same imagery to mark Zimbabwe as being open for business, to rebrand ZANU-PF as a newly reformed party, and to add another layer of muddying meaning to the flag in this new era.
ZANU-PF has a long history of usurping national symbols and building false narratives, but it remains to be seen if it will be successful in this latest endeavour.
Despite trying to change their rhetoric, the country’s “new” leaders are already struggling to break their habits of the past, ordering attacks on student protesters, dismissing nurses en masse for exercising their right to industrial action, and promising to liberalise the media only “after” elections.
It is too early to say whether Zimbabwe is truly on a new trajectory now that Mugabe has resigned.
One thing that is clear from this recent battle over imagery though is that power is not evenly distributed in the country.
All beings may be equal under the constitution, but the reality in Zimbabwe is that a mere citizen cannot wield the nation’s flag in an expression of patriotism in the same way the President can.
However, as today’s ZANU-PF comes to act like yesterday’s ZANU-PF, perhaps Zimbabweans are also well aware that the true meanings and motivations behind the two similar acts embodied in #ThisFlag and #ThisScarf are very different too.
By Rumbidzai Dube for African Arguments