• Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has said that a pastor behind #ThisFlag social media campaign should not be trusted as he has been sponsored by foreign countries to sabotage the country.

    Pastor Evan Mawarire has been in the limelight lately after he organized a national shutdown, which called on workers to remain at home in an anti-government protest, the largest in years.

    Mawarire’s campaign started as an online movement urging Zimbabweans to fight for their rights by coming out to criticize Mugabe’s 36-year old administration, which has stalled development in a country that was best known for its bounty harvests to feed the nation and exports. Today, Zimbabwe is a poor economy, suffering a cash shortage, with a leader that is not willing to step down to allow others to revive the country.

    According to Mugabe, the cleric who was arrested last week but was freed after a court terminated the case, is not a true preacher adding that if the preacher and others like him are not content with Zimbabwe, they should go to “the countries of those who are sponsoring them,” the BBC reported.

    "A man of religion will speak the biblical truth. 1 Corinthians what does it say? Love one another," the president said during his address to thousands of mourners at the funeral of Charles Utete, the country's first black cabinet secretary.

    "So beware these men of the cloth, not all of them are true preachers of the Bible."

    The 92-year old leader who has openly declared his interest to stand for re-election in 2018, questioned which God the preacher (Mawarire) served.

    "I don't know whether they are serving God... we spell God double G.O.D, they spell God in reverse," the news outlet cited Mugabe.

    Fear runs deep among Zimbabwean activists

    The cleric whose charges were dropped after his lawyers argued that the charge of subversion, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, had been added at the last minute, denying him a fair trial, is not cowering. Instead, he continues to call on Zimbabweans to “speak out” now.

    In the last three months, Zimbabwe’s economic standing has continued to topple and is now struggling to pay its soldiers and civil servants. Yet, the president and his wife Grace believe he is the best leader the country ever had.

    At the moment, Mawarire is in South Africa, although he has denied that he fled his country to seek asylum, the AFP reported. He added that his visit to neighboring South Africa was a “pre-planned” business trip and that he would soon return to Zimbabwe.

    Last year, a leading activist Itai Dzamara was abducted by unknown men and his whereabouts are still unknown.

    “The question of security is a very tough one to deal with,” Mawarire said adding that he fears for his family.

    “I am an ordinary citizen who cannot afford intricate security systems,” he said, adding he believed God protects him and his family.

    Commenting on his South African visit, Mawarire said: “I know it gives rise to rumors about ‘him having run away or gone to seek asylum.’ (But) as soon as I have exhausted my work, I will be heading back there.”

    Speaking to the news agency by telephone in Johannesburg, the pastor said: “The biggest goal that we have (is) to get citizens to be awake again, to move away from apathy, to be patriotic and to feel responsible for their country.”

    “We have to get citizens to scale the wall of fear and to get a place where they are not afraid to speak, not afraid to stand up and be open.”

    With a government that is unrelentingly seeking to stay longer in power and the possibilities of Grace Mugabe being a successor, the pastor hopes to focus on voter awareness ahead of the 2018 poll to empower people to vote out the old regime.

    The pastor, who argues that he is not seeking any political position, for now, pointed that he is only fighting for “Justice, and for righteousness, and mercy,” adding that he feels he’s in his “element” doing that.

    Image credit: AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi