Love and Laughter: How Zimbabweans Rebel Online

Short thesis

This talk will explore the importance of social media as a platform for Zimbabwean citizens to express their frustrations through both serious and humourous hashtags, memes, live tweeting, and videos.


In the last year, Zimbabwe has seen a series of uprisings and protests that manifested both digitally and in the streets. In April 2016, the hashtag movement #ThisFlag started was founded by Pastor Evan Mawarire who created a selfie-video discussing what the colours of the Zimbabwean flag represent based on the current state of the country. The emotional video went viral on Facebook making #ThisFlag the popular hashtag to use to express dissent nationwide. When Evan Mawarire was arrested on July 6, 2016 over 4,000 people protested at the Magistrate Court until his eventual release that evening – using #FreeEvanMawarire to report live on the situation through Twitter. The same day, the Zimbabwean government used their networks of power to shutdown mobile internet and network for several hours in an attempt to suppress online organizing of the protest and limit online expression. The #ThisFlag hashtag movement made it clear that social media is a powerful tool for expressing dissent, organizing protests and dialoguing about the future of Zimbabwe. Following #ThisFlag, many other hashtags became widely used amongst various groups including university graduates (#ThisGown), political activists (#Tajamuka, #Hatichatya), rural mothers (#BeatThePot), among others. This talk will explore how Zimbabweans are using social media and comedy as a platform for citizens to express their frustrations with the absurd political situation.  

The two panellists, Martha O’Donovan and Munyaradzi Dodo, are both very involved in Zimbabwe’s digital activism movement. Martha O’Donovan is the manager for Magamba TV, a production group that uses comedy and satires as tools to tackle current political, economic, and cultural issues in Zimbabwe. One of the series called ‘The Week’, hosted by Comrade Fatso, is a very popular satirical round-up of local and international news. Munyaradzi Dodo is the manager of a citizen blog Kalabash Media and a political reporting platform Open Parly. @OpenParlyZW is one of the top Twitter handles to follow in Zimbabwe due to their accurate and reliable live reporting from Parliament, protest movements, and other political functions.