Hashtags and Spectacles: Zimbabwe's Feminist Activists Find Online Avenues to Tackle Government's COVID-19 Clampdown

Feminist critiques, activism and the feminist movement have long played a key role at significant political junctures in Zimbabwe, challenging the male domination of political and public spaces, as well as entrenched masculine orientations of democracy and liberation. In 2020, with the arrival of the COVID-19 global pandemic and following a two-decade boom in internet access and digital media, parts of the feminist movement in Zimbabwe moved online in a tactical shift that prioritised social media spectacle as a way to challenge the patriarchal state, and also publicise abuses in public healthcare and related political abuses. The creation and subsequent popularity of two hashtags, #ZimbabweLivesMatter and #ZanuPFMustGo, was bolstered by activists who zoned in on women’s issues and specifically looked to overturn the notion of respectability that has been key in defining women’s place in society. The abduction, arrest and torture of three female opposition activists, together with the arrest and harassment of renowned female author Tsitsi Dangarembga, provide episodes through which features of feminist responses can be explored.