Analysts defend hounded pastor Evan

HARARE - Activist clergyman Evan Mawarire — who waged a valiant social media campaign to press President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF to arrest the country’s deepening rot, and who has now been forced to relocate to the United States of America — has split public opinion in a seriously divided Zimbabwe about whether he is a hero or a coward.

The popular Baptist preacher led the infectious and highly resonant #ThisFlag campaign which galvanised fed up Zimbabweans to agitate for change, before panicking authorities descended on him like a tonne of bricks, forcing him into exile — first in neighbouring South Africa, and now in the US where he has been given long term refuge.

So prominent in the country’s body politic had Mawarire become before he fled out of the country that Forbes magazine even called him the Martin Luther King of Zimbabwe — likening him to the gifted and internationally-acclaimed American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Some of his adoring local followers also affectionately refereed to him as “Captain Zimbabwe”, as he inspired and fired the imagination of long-suffering ordinary citizens who began to dream about finally being capable of forcing the country’s much-criticised rulers to change their errant ways.

But as has too often been the case over the past 36 years of Zimbabwe’s independence, the dream proved to be too good to be true, as the cleric was soon put in the slammer, before being hounded out of the country after the jittery Zanu PF government launched a thuggish crackdown against all dissenting voices.

And with his establishment detractors now looking to profit from his exile, and maliciously painting him as a coward, many analysts who spoke to the Daily News On Sunday yesterday said it would be “wholly wrong” to overlook both his bravery and the achievements of his #ThisFlag campaign.

“Maybe he did not anticipate the kind of pressure that was going to come from the campaign, and his arrest may have been a shock to him.

“He has a right to be where he feels safe but it’s unfortunate that he will not be present to see the developments of what he started.

“People have different giftings from God and God places them at positions to fulfil those gifts. Maybe Mawarire’s gift was simply to popularise the idea. It’s his right to decide what he wants to do next.

“You also need to understand that Pastor Evan has never been in politics and he came in, created and brought in a new ideology.

“Some of us would not have even managed that. I don’t think he has betrayed anyone. People have different roles and stretching beyond that would break him,” outspoken Harare Bishop Ancelimo Magaya said.

Last month, Mawarire helped to organise arguably the biggest general strike to have been mounted in the history of the country, with hundreds of thousands of fed up Zimbabweans heeding his call to stay away from work.

Human rights expert, Dewa Mavhinga, also paid tribute to Mawarire and said the cleric had inspired Zimbabweans to fight for their rights.

“We must never underestimate the creativity and capacity of the Zimbabwe regime when it comes to repression and the politics of fear. Mawarire is a simple pastor who took to social media to vent his frustrations at an insensitive government and in the process spoke what was in the hearts and minds of millions of Zimbabweans.

“Expectedly, the regime mobilised an entire machinery of repression to come against a man with no political or activism background, who has two small children and a pregnant wife.

“It is easy to engage in armchair politics and criticise Mawarire but my view is that the struggle must continue in key institutions, including civil society, churches, trade unions and opposition political parties,” Mavhinga — a senior human rights researcher with New-York-based Human Rights Watch — said.

After organising last months’s “shutdown”, Mugabe himself was so miffed by the popularity of his #ThisFlag campaign that he threatened Mawarire during the burial of his long time aide, Charles Utete, at the national Heroes Acre.

“I don’t even know him (Mawarire), 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.

“I don’t know if he’s a man of religion. A man of religion will speak the biblical truth. First Corinthians, what does it say? Love one another. So beware these men of God. Not all of them are true preachers of the Bible. I don’t know whether they are serving God. Well, we spell God (as) G.O.D, they spell in reverse (DOG),” the nonagenarian thundered then.

“No one is indispensable to the struggle, as it is not one man’s responsibility but one that everyone must embrace. Yes, the disappointment with his move is palpable and has deflated some of the momentum, but the cause is not lost.

“After what he roused and achieved in a short space of time, I would have preferred he stayed. However, the decision to speak out was one he took independently and with no intention to spawn a movement.

“I am certain that the changed circumstances demanded reflection from the ruling elite’s part and the truth is no one except him knows what pushed him and informed his decision to leave the country,” analyst McDonald Lewanika said.

In the meantime, Mawarire has posted a video on YouTube in which he urges Zimbabweans to continue with the fight, vowing to spread his campaign even as he is domiciled in the US.

“As we go forward, let us remind each other that our movement is not about one person This not about one personality.

“Our strength is not in one person or one movement ... don’t stop protesting against government’s poor governance. I am meeting up with citizens in the diaspora, I am going to the USA, while I assess my next move.

“But don’t stop, don’t depend on Mawarire. Depend on you. This is what the strength of the movement is about,” Mawarire said.

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Comments (21)

He is not a coward as some of our comrades may fantom.He is simply running away from his death bed that was thrown before him by his ruthless foes.I knoe them .they thrash to oblivion.

PURUTANAI - 14 August 2016

Mawarire is a hero.He must for sure run for his life,,but he send a very strong message that shock mugabe.After all the threats the only right thing for him to do was to save himself&his family. After all its not worthy for a man to fight for his country &die in the process. He started so the rest is for the public not an individual. I salute him&support his decision 100%At least he was courage enough to stand against the oppressers without fear,,putting his family in danger.Thanks my brother,,I wish I can shake yr hand for the job well done.May the lord our God grand u many more to come.

Matsotsi - 14 August 2016

he together with mukwanhazi and that vendor guy are true heroes ,they by default designed a significant material for change-know the perception of patriotism and nationalism has been redefined .people are know showing off their discontent on daily basis thanks to pastor and his cronies .know let it be clear to the clueless zanu pf and its hideous old leader that time is up and the injury time you are in is going to yield nothing but more pain in the ass .TRUTH

murambatsvina - 14 August 2016

The gullibility of us Zimbos is staggering! How do we put so much blind trust in a guy who we know very little of, much less what he has materially done over time? How can we know that he is not a mugabe military intelligence spy?? All I know the country was on a knife edge, and a match lit at the right time was going to explode the keg. From the clouds comes riding the pastor to take all the attention. He gets in jail for a few days, diverts all attention. Things die down, then presto he is off to South Africa and then to the States. And with him, is the hope and aspiration for change. And the goblin, who had " castgated" him in public, smiles sweetly cruelly behind closed doors. Zivai zvinhu mhani mazimba !

galante - 14 August 2016

Mawarire is worthy of salutation in the most exalting terms possible. Fleeing from the tyrant is a measure of safety and I advise him to lie low until he can come up with another liberation idea. It looks like Zimbabweans are waiting for someone like Mawarire to get the liberation we have always sought right from the days of Rhodesia.

Seedman Mtamandeni - 14 August 2016

opportunists like mawarire must stop abusing the urban idiots that has been voting for tsvangirai,we know mawarire is the child of an ex rhodesian police officer so he remains bitter at our independence,as it is,mawarire is no different to tsvangirayi,both were used by western embassies to try and overthrow the govt,both failed and both are out of their depth,though i only salute mawarire for heeding the old saying,'if its too hot in the kitchen,get out'

truth - 15 August 2016

Truth you must be out of your mind. If Pastor Mawarire is a mere opportunist, then the authorities would not be panicking. There would be no talk of suppressing people's rights through curtailing the social media. Mawarire is someone who should be applauded by everyone for instilling the sense of patriotism in every Zimbabwean, sense of identity , love and oneness, especially to fight the social evil called corruption. His efforts must be embraced by any right minded and progressive Zimbabwean with a Pan Africa perspective. He managed to draw the minds of Zanu Pf, MDC, Zim Pf and everyone including churches and traditional leaders. He made everyone to be a proud citizen.

ISHE NEHOREKA - 15 August 2016

galante,people are not being gullible,we are just giving credit where it is due.If Mawarire is an undercover c10,then he has done a very wonderful job,because his campaign has awaken Zimbos from their deep slumber and they have now realised that an owl does not have horns[Zizi harina nyanga.]

Janana wa Bikaz - 15 August 2016

Chiitaika imi vana Galante.If i can ask,,Is there anything u did trying to change the situation.The only thing u know is to put blames on some people who are trying.Dai zvakaitwa naMawarire zvakabvisa Mugabe waiitii?People we need to learn to apriciate the little we get from ather people.Trying can bring change than sitting back&complain

Matsotsi - 15 August 2016

I have no kind words for the urban idiots who vote for a rural party and think they are intelligent. IQ must be less than 1.

Sagitarr - 15 August 2016

Shuwa akaita zvakanaka, now we need to play our own parts

Tabhoikana - 15 August 2016

The man is just a pastor, not a HERO and not a COWARD. Pastor might be his first name or clergyman title(not sure there), not a HERO because he has forfeited one or more votes from his family to Zanu and lastly he is not a COWARD because he dared speak against whatever he perceives as misrule. Did ZANU see him as a threat? No - thats why they let him retain his passport. Did the opposition see him as an ALLY? Maybe.#RegistertoVote

Dunderhead - 15 August 2016

we are always at each other`s throat but the root of the problem is enjoying the fight.

VANIRK - 15 August 2016

The gut is an utter dissapointment. Hanzi "Hatichatya" kusungwa kana kufa. What has he done today?? He is spends a night in jail and all of a sudden He is now afraid of his life. nxa! The guy is a coward period!

whats - 15 August 2016

l just dont understand why people say that he is a coward. What happened to martin luther king was he not killed. So want his kids to grow up without whilst your kids will see you everyday

lugi - 15 August 2016

Yes he was brave bt I think yu all annoying him now coz he is noe reluxed in Michigan,USA. Life is about opportunities.yu take them n gap it.run nigger run.Coz if they catch yu dem gonna play catch wth yo balls.

viola gwena - 15 August 2016

Pastor Evan brought up an issue that was bothering most if not all Zimbabweans. Opportunist or Not, Hero or Coward. He did us proud he stood up to the system. Well done Brother!

Amos - 16 August 2016

Would love to see a viral video equivalent of the first #ThisFlag video, using other Zimbabwean symbols like our Anthem etc. Also on my wish list a smart phone app to monitor the next election from Voter Registration (ultra slow in Urban areas, ultra fast in spread out rural areas) to the lead up to elections and elections themselves.

Nooshie - 16 August 2016

Is it unusual to run away fro repression. Did Robert Mugabe, Simon Mzenda, Joshua Nkomo, Joesph Msika not do so. We have seen this happen in history. When life is in danger you run away. Maurice Nyagumbo remained with the people but he was in prison. Vakomana musaite vamwe mapenzi. Tinofungawo kani. Our opposition politicians, why do you not refer to all these incidences instead of being taken for a ride while you keep quiet.

Tendai fambaoga - 16 August 2016

you may ask yourself kuti who was a hero during the liberation struggle which mugabe thinks was instumental, everyone was a hero and we all fought using differnent methods its obvously wrong to say mugabe fought alone otherwise he wasnt at the forefront what did mugage do kuhondo tell me. mawarire cant be called a hero yekutaura pa internet kuti i have hunger and lack of jobs, intimadation munyika, corruption rife and gross mismagement in this country. you cant call him coward either, coz coming back was like laying in his coffin the moment he steppd zim, you heard the mugabe saying it about mawarire live on television and you expect him to come back, a president and chihuri apolice officer threating a civlian in public imagine. mugabe akanganwa kuti they all ran away from this country and hid kunana nyadzonya chimoyo tanzania zambia yugoslavia but still fought smith. unga whine hondo ne suicide here

oto - 17 August 2016

Vazhinji muZanu pf vaive mbwende vamwe vaive madzakutsaku....vamwe ma auxiliary. Iye Mugabe akatizei kunobuda Ghana if he was a hero?? Musanyepere kurizina apa.... Common sense is no longer common.

Dhewa - 17 August 2016

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