His Generation Church founder and the famous man behind #ThisFlag movement, Pastor Evan Mawarire, who was arrested and charged with plotting to overthrow the government after he took up the cudgels for stay-away calls to protest against 150% fuel price hike in January, was on Wednesday removed from remand at the State’s request.
According to the State, Pastor Mawarire and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union secretary-general Peter Mutasa organised anti-government protests in January to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration from power. It was alleged that on January 1, 2019, the politically involved cleric connived with his co-accused trade unionist record and publish an incendiary viral video coercing the Zimbabwean workers to boycott duty and encouraging civil disobedience or resistance to law. That, as per the State, surmounted to subverting the Government.
The State further alleges the two also attempted to coerce the constitutionally elected Government by giving demands that the boycott would only end if Government attended to their demands, which were to address economic challenges, pay workers in United States dollars and to remove the bond notes.
If convicted, the two were facing 20 years in prison.
But in yesterday’s hearing, the State led by Mr Lancelotte Mutsokoti withdrew its case against the man of the cloth and his confederate, following its failure to complete investigations and complete trial within a reasonable time.
The Prosecutor General’s office gave the instruction to remove the two from remand.
“The Prosecutor General is still perusing and considering the docket and he needs more time that’s why we decided to remove the accused persons from remand,” he said.
Harare magistrate Mrs Victoria Mashamba then removed Pastor Mawarire and Mutasa from remand.
The acquittal means that the two can never be arrested on the same grounds, but in the event that the State wants to press charges again, it will only proceed by way of summons.
“The State will proceed by way of summons as it seems they require more time to complete investigations and put their house in order, despite their undertakings to complete investigations within four weeks from the duo’s arrest in January,” said Mashamba.
Alec Muchadehama and Tonderai Bhatasara of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) represented pastor Mawarire and Mutasa.
Upon acquittal, Pastor Evan himself tweeted, thanking those who stood with him in prayers.
“After almost 11 months of detention on bail the state has withdrawn their fake treason charges. We should never have been arrested to begin with. Thank you for your prayers and support. We keep speaking up for the abused and vulnerable of our country,” he wrote over a picture of him standing before the Harare Magistrate Court with his signature flag and bible.
Pastor Evan Mawarire rose out of obscurity and emerged as a leader in Zimbabwe in 2016 when he stood up to the then-president Robert Mugabe by mobilising Zimbabweans around their national flag. He did this by recording, This Flag, A Lament of Zimbabwe, a very moving video that he put on YouTube.
The video went viral and catalysed a spontaneous and indelible movement that became known as the “This Flag Movement”.
In 2017, a civil-society campaign SaveSouth Africa used the same idea when mobilising people to take on corruption and State Capture under then-president Jacob Zuma.
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