EUPHORIA gripped Zimbabwe when firebrand pastor, Evan Mawarire, began ranting and raving, through the #ThisFlag campaign, to express his frustration over the country’s deteriorating economic situation.
His frustrations resonated well with almost everyone and his support grew as many people believed that “salvation” was finally knocking on the country’s doors.From just a mere tweet, what began as a social media pastime, #ThisFlag gathered momentum to incarnate into protests which many believed was the only way ZANU-PF would succumb as Zimbabweans, followed the bandwagon to the “Hatichada” (we are fed up), “Hatichatya” (We are not afraid) mantra.
Armed with his mobile phone, a flag and the Bible, Mawarire’s story hogged the limelight in both local and international media.
After his “miraculous” escape from the gallows, having been arrested for inciting violence, he made good his escape as soon as Harare magistrate Vakai Chikwekwe freed him.The charismatic clergyman escaped to South Africa under the guise that he had pre-arranged business commitments.
That he is unlikely to return any time soon is now certain after he said so himself.His followers back home, however, feel let down.That he has even gone as far as referring to his fellow Zimbabweans as “haters” in his latest video shot in the United States, seems to point to the fact that he could have completely lost the plot somewhere along the line.
“You are quick to tell me to come back home, but you can’t tell Bob (President Robert Mugabe) to go away,” Mawarire chuckled.
His move to the Diaspora has, however, been met with mixed feelings, with some Zimbabweans dismissing Mawarire’s security fears as mere disguise of his betrayal of the people’s trust.
Although, Mawarire claims solidarity with suffering Zimbabweans, his recent move to a more comfortable base in the US, where he is reportedly being granted asylum, has set tongues wagging.
“I keep saying that whether I am in Zimbabwe or not, this will not make us stop. Our power is in unity and faith. Our strength is in numbers, so I encourage you that we should have more movements that are protesting against government,” Mawarire insists.
Calling for more demonstrations in a volatile country, which he has ironically fled, has left many seeing yet another dummy in Mawarire’s calls.An indication of the disgruntlement is the significant drop in the number of comments on Mawarire’s Twitter and Facebook handles as his social media support wanes in the wake of his move to the Diaspora. Many long-suffering Zimbabweans now feel that the clergyman has abandoned the struggle.
Research analyst with the University of Johannesburg, Admire Mare, said Zimbabwe is desperate for leadership to save it from the current regime, hence gullible whenever a new leader emerges.
“Zimbabweans are suffering from a crisis of expectations. We are yearning for a Moses and whenever a new leader props up promising heaven on earth, we expect him or her to take us to the Promised Land,” said Mare.
“Most of the time we end up expecting too much and becoming euphoric to the point of ignoring the political and communicative opportunity structures which militates against the attainment of the political objectives,” he added.
He, however, said Mawarire’s life was in danger and, as a political novice, he put his life first.
“Accusing Mawarire of selling out or absconding is simply expecting too much from a citizen whose role was just to kick-start the protest culture. His actions are therefore understandable in the sense that his campaign was generally ‘leaderless’ in the metaphorical sense. His safety and security comes first,” Mare said.
A political activist, who sent President Mugabe a prison garb before also fleeing the country, Nkosilathi Moyo, said Mawarire needed time to re-strategise, hence his trip to the US.
“Mawarire was no longer safe in Zimbabwe because no one knows what ZANU-PF was brewing to silence him.
“Yes he has gone at a time when Zimbabwe needed him most — I totally agree, but sometimes going out for a while to re-strategise, rest and respite is very important in a struggle,” said Moyo.