A Harare cleric has defied odds and gone ahead to not only criticize openly the government of Zimbabwe but also rally people on social media to join him to demand their rights.
His videos titled #thisflag have gone viral on social media and he says, despite credible threats on his life, he will continue the protest until there is change.
Pastor Evan Mawarire of His Generation Church posted protest rant days after Independence Day celebrations. Concentrating his protests on the country’s flag, the pastor has urged his fellow Zimbabweans to carry their flags as a symbol of patriotism and said history will judge this generation harshly if it does not fight for its rights.
The protest has not worked well for the 39-year-old pastor whose demonstrations are depicting government failure. According to NewsDay, pastor Evan said last Wednesday that unknown people had threatened him.
“After I posted the first video on social media and the massive response it has received, there have been negative comments of course. Some people have said I am wasting my time, dicing with death or, worse still, asked what would happen after this,” he told the news outlet. “However, the scariest of these was a phone call I received from an unidentified number. The person at the other end of the line told me they would strangle me using the flag,” Mawarire said.
Following the mysterious call, Mawarire is now living in fear due to the threats. But he says it will not deter him from fighting for the future of his children that is not guaranteed in the current state of the country. “I am definitely afraid. But for me, the resolve to be an unrepentant citizen of good standing is bigger than the fear to be quiet. I can no longer justify silence in the current situation,” the cleric said.
The hashtag #thisflag has gained a following on Twitter with Zimbabweans across the globe joining the cleric in the social media protest, by posting images waving the country’s flag calling for reforms.
Poverty and disintegrating economy
Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a downward trend for over a decade now.
In 2009, the country decided to abandon its currency due to hyperinflation, and ever since the southern African nation has had to juggle with a number of foreign currencies in hopes that it would help the collapsing economy, in vain. It has had to use the US dollar, the South African rand, the British sterling, and most recently, the Chinese yuan.
In the 1990s, the country was hailed as an African success story and was dubbed the “breadbasket" of southern Africa with one of the best health and education systems in the region. But the Zimbabwe’s economic backbone – agriculture – has been curtailed by the combined effects of drought, HIV/AIDS, and controversial government land reforms.
The land reforms in the country are perhaps the most crucial and bitterly contested political issue in Zimbabwe, causing the systematic failure of domestic banks which held billions of dollars’ worth of bonds on liquidated properties.
Thus, begun the economic challenges in the cash-strapped country that has resorted to printing “bond notes” of $2, $5, $10, and $20 according to a recent announcement by the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe John Mangudya.
Due to the country’s balance of payment, whereby Zimbabwe is importing more than what it is exporting, the country is in dire need to an urgent solution to remain afloat.
One of the major changes enforced by the regulator is a limit of cash withdrawals which now stands at $1,000, 1,000 euros ($1,149) or 20,000 rand ($1,345).
Apart from the financial crisis, some economists have put the unemployment rate in the country at nearly 90%. Additionally, Mugabe’s government has been accused of violating human rights without regard to the country’s constitution.
Police brutality in the country is high with allegations that they bar people from exercising basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly. Early in the year, executive director of Heal Zimbabwe Trust, Rashid Mahiya, presented a case to the country’s Constitutional Court seeking an order to compel the government to implement Section 210 of the Constitution which provides for the setting up of an independent body to deal with complaints against the police.
It is because of such acts of human rights violations that have pushed pastor Mawarire to the edge, and he has come out strongly seeking the government to be accountable to its citizens. While he still faces a threat on his life, he fights passionately for his children and the people of Zimbabwe.
Image credit: Evan Mawarire