Zimbabwean pastor, Evan Mawarire, freed by court of subversion charges
Pastor Evan Mawarire, who started the #ThisFlag movement, arrested last week after leading campaign against alleged government corruption and poor handling of Zimbabwe’s troubled economy
Was facing a sentence of 20 years.
Pastor Evan Mawarire: Preachng non-violent change and quietly creating social impact
Zimbabwean strongman, President Robert Mugabe, accused of poor management of the economy. Not ready to stepdown even at the age of 92
The pastor who has been at the heart of a social media campaign denouncing the government’s management of the economy, was freed by a court in , Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Pastor Evan Mawarire had been accused of attempting to overthrow the government of President Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old dictator who has ruled the country since 1987.
Supporters of Mawarire celebrated the news in song and dance after his lawyers successfully argued that the charge of subversion had been added at the last minute, denying him a fair trial.
In Harare, the queue wraps around the block as customers wait to make withdrawals from a bank
Mr Mawarire, who started the #ThisFlag movement, was draped in Zimbabwe’s national flag in court. the preacher who was represented by dozens lawyers had been charged, Tuesday, with inciting public violence and disturbing the peace. The charge of subversion carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
The charges stem from the fact that last week, he was instrumental in getting Zimbabweans to stage the biggest protest against President Mugabe in a decade.
Charismatic pastor Evan Mawarire began a social media movement in May under the hashtag #ThisFlag, when he spontaneously posted a video online, expressing his frustration at the state of the nation.
The hashtag calling for civil disobdience
The protesters have demanded social and economic changes from the Mugabe government
It went viral and spurred him to continue urging Zimbabweans to find their voice and demand accountability from their government.
His outspoken videos in English and Shona are careful to say that non-violence is key, although other agitators are not so guarded.
It is noteworthy that his latest call for a two-day stay away from work to protest the economic crisis went largely unheeded, with most businesses opening as normal.
Nontheless, Mawarire has had real impact on the social discourse in Zimbabwe. At the onset of the protests, civil servants had gone unpaid, but after the call to exercise the freedom to protest left the country’s cities deserted, salaries were finally paid, a week into the protests. Subsequently, most schools, hospitals and offices were open as usual by mid-week, despite the strike call. However, the country still faces a severe shortage of cash, as well as a severe drought.
The danger for mugabe’s government is that while the ‘politically-concious’ minister preaches a moderate ‘non-violent’ to civil disobedience, younger activists under the banner Tajamuka, meaning “we strongly disagree”, are less moderate. These are young men who are fed up of waiting for jobs. Their brazen approach has been likened to that of “Occupy Africa Unity Square”, a group founded by Itai Dzamara, an anti-corruption activist who disappeared in mysterious circumstances last year.
Last year the protesters took to the streets calling on the government to:
Pay civil servants on time.
Reduce roadblocks and stop cops harassing people for cash.
The government of President Robert Mugabe should fire and prosecute corrupt officials. Government should shelve plans to introduce bond notes to ease a cash shortage.
Removal of recently introduced ban on imported goods.
The authorities may have temporarily shutdown public dissent by arresting and prosecuting Mawarire, whom they accused of inciting public violence and disturbing the peace, still issues of alleged government corruption and the poor handling of the country’s economy remain unresolved . The government crackdown may just be creating a festering ground for the more aggresive supporters of Tajamuka