Police hunt down protest leaders


Zimbabwean police are seeking several organisers of the stayaway protest in Zimbabwe last week and one of them was arrested and will appear in court on Monday.

They deny they support any violence in their campaigns and insist they have not planned any march on State House.

Pastor Evan Mawarire, founder of the #ThisFlag social media campaign, claims he narrowly avoided abduction from his Harare home on Friday by unknown people.

He, Sten Zvorwadza, chairman of the National Vendors Union, and Promise Mkwananzi, a former official from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, were summoned by police on Friday. This was two days after the massive stayaway which largely shutdown Zimbabwe at a time when the economy is on the brink and cash is hard to find.

Mkwananzi was arrested and will appear in court on Monday. Mawarire had not yet been to the police late on Friday. Zvorwadza’s lawyer Obey Shava from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said:

“We went to the police station and they were just asking questions on the protests and if he [Zvorwadza] was planning on doing anything that could cause harm to the state.”

Zvorwadza, who recently led a protest against Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s two-year residence in a five star Harare hotel, told journalists that none of the activists planned any march to State House as that would be illegal and “treasonous”.

“Our mission is to do everything peacefully because we are advocating for peaceful demonstrations and peaceful marches.

“I am quite happy today that government has picked me up as one of the persons planning an uprising, a [charge] which I totally deny. But I am [a] citizen of Zimbabwe. Therefore I have every right to pursue an agenda to free myself and others.

“The government and its leadership must not forget that in the early 1960s they stood up against oppression and repression because they had suffered enough at the hands of the white colonial rulers,” he said.

The state-controlled Sunday Mail reports that Mkwananzi appeared in court on Saturday in connection with a charge of public violence and was remanded in custody until Monday.



He was not arrested in connection with the #ThisFlag campaign, but for a demonstration last month against Choppies, a Botswana-based discount supermarket group, in which Mphoko is a major shareholder.

There have been demonstrations and criticism against Mphoko as protesters say he is wasting government funds by living in a five star Harare hotel for the past two years.

He and Information Minister Christopher Mushowe say harsh action will be taken against organisers of social media in future, and accused foreign embassies of supporting the #This Flag campaign.

Mawarire, who started the #ThisFlag social movement in April, said late on Saturday he was worried that he was being followed and feared abduction.

“Fellow citizens, tonight has been one of those tough nights. Some men tried to abduct me against my own will, but they failed. I thank God,” Mawarire says in a video he posted.

He said it was regrettable that some of the people involved in the co-ordination of the shutdown were being targeted by police.

“Mr government, why must you always extend handcuffs that say I want to lock you away and you are my enemy when you disagree?” he said, in reference to the arrest of fellow protest leaders.

“That is the problem that we have in Zimbabwe, that you call people enemies just because they have challenged you on anything.

“That must change, otherwise we are going nowhere.” He called on the nation to brace for a two-day shutdown on Wednesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, Harare Magistrate Vakai Chikwekwe on Friday released 105 people, including several juveniles, arrested a week ago during demonstrations against police roadblocks. They were released on R1500 bail each and are due back in court on July 28. They are accused of violence against the police and damage to property.

So far police have not released statistics of how many people they have arrested during several protests and demonstrations in the past two weeks

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