THE pastor behind the biggest protests against President Robert Mugabe in a decade on Monday stressed that the movement that he started was apolitical, and was about Zimbabweans taking responsibility for their country.
Baptist minister Evan Mawarire was speaking to Talk Radio 702’s Redi Tlhabi from South Africa. However, there were no details of his whereabouts or when he would be returning to Harare.
He said Zimbabwe had got to a point where the personal struggle of getting a job and earning a decent living or sending children to school had become too difficult to hide. Zimbabweans could not keep quiet anymore, Mawarire said.
“We have reached now in Zimbabwe (a point where) everyone, no matter what your religion is, your background or even your political affiliation, where we are saying we are done with this, and if we do not unite as citizens we are not going to see the Zimbabwe that we dream of,” said Mawarire.
Last week the pastor was charged with instigating public violence, but was freed after his lawyers successfully argued that when the state added the charge of subversion at the last minute, it had denied him a fair trial.
However, Mawarire’s arrest on the eve of a planned two-day stayaway was partly blamed for the failure of the protest. The previous week much of the country resembled a ghost town as citizens heeded the call for a one-day protest.
Mawarire has risen to prominence since he started the social media #ThisFlag movement in April, which has tapped into mounting public anger over corruption, high unemployment, economic woes and police harassment.
Mawarire told 702 that for a long time, Zimbabweans had not been able to express themselves, and that this was “a process of Zimbabweans coming out of their shells”.
Mawarire said in reality, Zimbabwe was still in crisis and the issues being expressed now had long been brewing under the surface.
“What we do know right now, however, is that we don’t want to go back to 2008, but we can’t continue to let things spiral
“I think we have woken up to the fact that it is the citizens of Zimbabwe, not an opposition political party, not the AU, or Southern African Development Community or the EU or the US that are responsible for the Zimbabwe that we want … it is us, the citizens.”
Mawarire was praised by callers who phoned into the station to commend the pastor for his work. Many of them said they were praying for his safety.
He said the key thing was for the region not only to support the state but also the people of Zimbabwe. The country’s neighbours needed to act when they saw injustice being committed, he said.
“The lost faith in the region by Zimbabweans goes back into the last couple of years, where we have seen our regional friends stand by or endorse injustices that are obviously blatant,” he said.
When asked whether the flag movement needed to find a political home, Mawarire responded by saying Zimbabweans had realised over the years that there had been recycling of the same ideas and personalities without success.
He said a new set of ideas was needed, along with a new activism. However, Mawarire praised the opposition parties in fighting for the rights of Zimbabweans