Zimbabwe pastor Evan Mawarire calls for more protests

Zimbabwe pastor Evan Mawarire calls for more protests

A Zimbabwean pastor who was detained after organising a nationwide strike last week has called on people to keep protesting.

Evan Mawarire told the BBC people should stay at home as part of a campaign against corruption, economic mismanagement and unemployment.

He said the campaign was serious about wanting change.

Mr Mawarire was freed on Wednesday when a court in Harare dismissed a legal case against him.

His lawyers successfully argued that the charge of subversion had been added at the last minute, denying him a fair trial.

The pastor has been at the heart of a social media campaign denouncing the government’s management of the economy.

He said the #ThisFlag movement’s goal was to “get as many citizens as possible involved in nation-building”.

The crowds that gathered for the court appearance of Pastor Evan Mawarire show the power of social media in Zimbabwe. Those who were able packed into the courtroom and reacted in shock and then derision when prosecutors added a new charge of subversion, meaning the state believed the preacher was attempting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

But the ambush tactics did not work as the defence team was able to argue that the last-minute charge denied the pastor a fair trial. It was still a brave decision by a magistrate given the prevailing difficult political circumstances.

Many of those who showed up in solidarity were draped in the national flag: It is no longer just a symbol of national pride, but a statement that the country should not be monopolised by a political elite. Social media activists have taken the fight for political reforms to new levels and the authorities are having difficulty controlling and monitoring them.

It is a pastor with no known political credentials who has managed to galvanise the nation, calling for an end to corruption. The stay away call may be muted – with civil servants not wanting to give the authorities an excuse not to pay them – but the unprecedented scenes outside court mark a change of tone in Zimbabwean activism.

The pastor’s latest call for people to stay away from work in protest at the economic crisis went largely unheeded, with most businesses opening as normal on Wednesday.

Mr Mawarire admitted the protest was not as successful as last week’s – when the country’s cities were deserted – but said the strike should continue on Thursday.

He said: “Let’s all shut down and send a message to our government that enough is enough, we need changes in very simple things, in very simple areas.

“And our protest – non-violent, non-inciting, stay-at-home – is the best because it is within the confines of the law.

“Every Zimbabwean who does not participate is robbing us of a great opportunity to add to the momentum of where our country is going.”

Categories: Africa, News

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