There has been much hullabaloo over the humiliating defeat of popular Zimbabwe musician Enzo Ishall (real name Kudzanai Mamhare) – where he garnered an embarrassing seven (7) votes in the recently held ZANU PF primary elections.
This made me wonder whether Zimbabwe was truly in need of so many so-called ‘influencers’ – who are primarily known for their huge following, particularly on social media?
As much as Enzo may not really fall into that category – since he is more of a famous singer than a social media personality – his rather dismal performance in these ruling party polls brought these thoughts to my mind.
Let me hasten to make it clear that I do not have anything against so-called ‘influencers’ – as this is ordinarily a very creative and acceptable source of livelihood – with some of those involved keeping us entertained.
My concern, rather, is that we have a country which appears to have so many of these ‘influencers’ – with a glaring shortage of ‘influential people’.
It is critical to understand that, as much as the term ‘influencer’ is widely used in relation to these social media personalities – the blunt truth is that they do not carry much sway and influence in the day-to-day lives and decisions of ordinary people, including their plethora of followers.
These thousands or even millions of followers, they have on social media, are more in the form of fans – who enjoy these influencers’ shenanigans on social media, be it comedic skits, singing, dancing, or any other number of acts – than individuals over whom they hold some influence or authority.
For one to be regarded as genuinely influential, he or she needs the capacity to have an effect on the character or behavior of someone or something.
This then begs the question – do these so-called ‘influencers’ genuinely hold any such capacity?
Can, for instance, Mai TiTi (Felistas Marata) or Passion Java (Panganai Java) truly wield the power to influence their multitudes of followers to take specific action, of which, they may otherwise not normally engage?
If one of them was to urge people to march in protest to State House, in order to pressure President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa to step down – are we to seriously expect their followers to oblige this request?
On the other hand, let us look at a controversial figure as former US president, Donald J. Trump.
When he allegedly urged his supporters to storm the Capitol in Washington DC, the seat of Congress, on 6th January 2021 – thousands heeded the call, thereby besieging the building, in an attempted insurrection designed to disrupt a joint session convened to certify the 2020 presidential election results, in which Trump had been defeat by Joe Biden.
The question becomes – what makes the difference between Mai TiTi or Java, as opposed to someone like Trump?
The answer is quiet simple.
The former are mere ‘influencers’, whereas the latter is an ‘influential person’.
In other words, to be crude, what we largely come across in Zimbabwe are just entertainers – whose thousands of followers simply enjoy their comedy skits or music, or whatever antics they come up with.
However, ‘influential people ‘ are actually opinion leaders, whose pronouncements are listen to, and normally taken seriously and obeyed, more so by their followers.
They hold significant power over the thoughts and behaviors of those they address.
Whether this influence leads to positive or negative consequences is not really my focus here.
What I am more concerned about is the shortage of such personalities in Zimbabwe.
Of course, we do have individuals as opposition CCC leader, Nelson Chamisa, and possibly Hopewell Chin’ono – although the jury is still out on the latter, whose real power over his followers’ character, thoughts and behaviors has never really been tested.
Such an absence of more influential people in Zimbabwe is most worrisome.
I find this particularly painful, especially this time when the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Zimbabweans have been turned into a horrifying nightmare by the ruling elite – whose insatiable greed for self-aggrandizement knows no bounds, leading to the repulsive grand looting of our national resources.
With millions of ordinary Zimbabweans languishing in deplorable poverty – most finding it most difficult fending for their families – the nation is in desperate need of someone to step up in leading the people to stand up for themselves.
Now is the time we need an individual or individuals who have the capacity to lead from the front – in galvanizing Zimbabweans into undertaking mass action that piles tremendous pressure on the political establishment – forcing them to place the interests of the citizenry ahead of their own selfish desires.
As multitudes watch in horror episode after episode of mind-blowing revelations of the sickening depths of gold smuggling and money laundering by those aligned to power – in a four-part investigative documentary by Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera – I can not help ask myself, “So who is to successfully influence Zimbabweans to finally say ‘enough is enough’, through meaningful mass action”?
The main reason we appear to be such a docile and passive people – whom the ruling elite can easily walk and ride roughshod over, without us resisting – is that the country lacks legitimately influential people to make the call, and we follow.
Deep inside, I sincerely believe Zimbabweans can get off their behinds and stand up for their rights – but, it is not something an individual at home can just decide to do on his own.
There is need for a leader whom people listen to – who not only gives the signal, but also leads right from the front.
That is where we are found wanting.
Instead, the few opinion leaders we have, who hold significant influence, are the real cowards – who are more interested in preserving their freedom from any possible arrest, so as to continue enjoying their comfortable livelihoods, as well as entertaining their lofty dreams of attaining power for themselves – at the expense of a suffering nation in distress.
No one is even calling for any violent unrest or civil conflict – an untenable and unworkable option – which, based on events on the continent, can only lead to needless death and destruction, with barely anything of substance achieved.
What I find extremely puzzling is why we can not undertake peaceful non-confrontational mass action – such as national stay aways or shutdowns – where we simply stay in our homes (as the name implies) for an agreed period, enough to exert the required pressure on those in power.
Surely, is it not the height of extreme foolhardiness for anyone to seriously expect those who have been oppressing and stealing from us to suddenly transform themselves on their own volition?
We urgently need to stand up for ourselves – but lack someone to lead this struggle for emancipation.
Zimbabwe definitely needs more influential people to step up and fill in this glaring gap.
The people of this country can not continue living in such misery – with no one to lead them to the land of milk and honey – as if we had been orphaned.
I honestly believe we have more than enough ‘influencers’ – but, now it is time we had ‘influential people’.
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org