Evan Mawarire, the Zimbabwean pastor whose #ThisFlag social media campaign contributed massively to a significant stayaway two weeks ago, says he is now “seriously” worried about returning home after President Robert Mugabe denounced publicly (Tuesday) yesterday.
Pastor Mawarire is in South Africa “to clear his head” after subversion charges against him were dropped by a Zimbabwe court last week and had said soon after arriving in South Africa that he would be going back home, amid rumours and speculation that he had escaped.
For the first time Mugabe spoke about Mawarire for the first time, at the burial of his former chief secretary Charles Utete, accusing the pastor of leading a violent campaign ahead of a national stayaway on July 6, which coincided with a strike by many unpaid civil servants.
Says Mugabe: “The Mawarires … I don’t even know him, and those who believe in that way of living, well, are not part of us in thinking, they are not part of us as we try to live together. If they don’t want to live with us they should go to those countries that are sponsoring them.
Soon after he was freed, for inciting public violence last week, then plotting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government, or treason, Mawarire urged his supporters to continue protesting against corruption and police brutality and then travelled by road, legally, to South Africa.
Mawarire said he was shocked when he heard Mugabe’s words.
“To hear a head of state talk of something that is an untruth is bad. So this has become a very serious situation for me, and I fear it. I am worried,” says the pastor.
“I make regular trips to South Africa. The main reason I came here was just to get away from it all, to calm down, relax, clear my head and think clearly about the way forward.”
“You can’t urge people to adopt violence, violent demonstrations as the way of life or a way of solving grievances, no.
“We will say no, forever no; find another environment if you are a pastor. I don’t know if he is a man of religion. A man of religion will speak the biblical truth … beware these men of God, not all of them are preachers of the Bible. I don’t know whether they are serving God or they spell G.O.D. in reverse.”
The state-controlled media have accused the French and US governments of helping Mawarire’s #ThisFlag campaign, which was first launch in April this year on social media, with a video of himself draped in the National flag.
Several prominent and experienced lawyers in Zimbabwe say they believe he will be arrested again as soon as he returns home and will face charges of attempting to overthrow the government which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison without option of a fine.
Mawarire said he and many others in Zimbabwe feared arrest although the police had treated him fairly at Harare Central Police Station.
On his Facebook page, Mawarire had said he was going home. But that was before hearing what Mugabe said about him on Tuesday.
Now he says is a very worried man and uncertain about the future. – ANA and edited by Patience Rusere