EVAN MAWARIRE | DEFENDING DEMOCRACY | OFFinJOBURG

EVAN MAWARIRE | DEFENDING DEMOCRACY  |  OFFinJOBURG


– On the 19th of April
2016, one day after our independence day, I did
something that I never thought I had the guts to do. I recorded a video. Now, I know that for some of
you recording a video may be nothing noteworthy, and I agree you have to understand that
this particular video changed my life completely, and
started a process that is now changing my country Zimbabwe as well. The four minute video that
I recorded was a personal lament at the tragic state
that my country has become. 37 years after independence
Zimbabwe was far from being free, even though
we were independent. I was struggling to pay
school fees for my children and consequently, I was
failing to look after this young family of mine. At the heart of this video
was a cry for the future of my nation. It was a call to every
Zimbabwean to find their place and to save their country from corruption injustice, and poverty. I was three years old when
Zimbabwe gained independence from British colonial rule in 1980. The war had been brutal, and
our parents had preserved. And finally, they were able
to vote for the government of the people, and by the people. However, not a single ordinary
Zimbabwean at independence 37 years later understood or
suspected that what they were fighting for, the freedom
that they were fighting for would be taken away by the
very people that they had hailed as their liberators. Since the early 1980’s
fear and brutal force became the order of the day. Our citizens were cowed into
submission, and the liberty that we thought we had
fought for, and voted for was nothing but a line in a
speech, and a lie to those who had given their lives for our freedom. I made a decision 15 years
ago, that I would spend a big portion of my life helping people. So, I became a pastor. I decided that I would teach
people perseverance and hope because those are the only
things that a person has left when they have lost everything. The young people of
Zimbabwe are big dreamers. I saw this as I taught
right across the country. The tragedy is that they
have always had their dreams stolen by the political elite of Zimbabwe. In 2016 I realized that no
one can fight for Zimbabwe like a Zimbabwean can. I realized that we are the people that we have been waiting for. So, I decided to record that first video. Which turned into 25 videos,
one recorded each day. I spoke to the ordinary
person, urging them to speak out against the mismanagement
of our nation and the abuse of our citizens. We the people are the ones
who have both the mandate and the power to challenge our government. From the grassroots a movement formed. And let me share with you,
part of that very first video. This flag, it is my country, my Zimbabwe. We go through so much, we
don’t look like much even now but there is promise in it. I will fight for it, I
will live for it and I will stand for it. This is the time, that
a change must happen. Quit standing on the side
lines and watching this flag fly and wishing for the
future that you are not at all wanting to get involved in. This flag, every day that
it flies, is begging for you to get involved, is begging for you to say something, it’s begging
for you to cry out and to say why must we be in the
situation that we are in. This flag, it’s your flag. It’s my flag. This flag. Thank you. This flag became and
still is a rallying call for all Zimbabweans to restore
Zimbabwe as a country that we can be proud to call home. Our movement is dedicated to
mobilizing citizens to speak ask, and to act in the interest
of a a better Zimbabwe. We wanted to see a responsible
citizenry that shuns violence as a means of conflict resolution,
and instead promotes the discussion of ideas, and
the respect of the rights of every citizen. Our movement took on many many campaigns. We mobilized people against
the introduction of a currency that our government
had used to steal real money from poor citizens of Zimbabwe. We successfully rallied the
nation to stay home and boycott work on 6th July 2016 as a
protest against continued mismanagement and injustice. Since my first video many good
citizens have been abused jailed, beaten, abducted,
and threatened with death. I was first arrested six days
after that boycott protest and charged with attempting
to subvert a constitutionally elected government. It was a charge that
carries a 20 year sentence. Imagine that, I had recorded
that first video, out of love for my country but here I
was being charged with trying to overthrow it. But something amazing
happened during that arrest. As I was being taken to court
thousands of Zimbabweans rallied each other and
gathered at the courts to demand my release. This was unprecedented. Ordinary people came out
and stood their ground. People sang in the courts,
and others knelt in prayer before a fiercely armed riot police. It grew dark but they refused
to go home, and camped outside the court in their thousands. They brought each other food
and lit candles as a sign of their undying flame of hope. At the end of that night
people power prevailed. I was finally released, and
after more than eight hours of court deliberation. That
event however, gave birth to a renewed vision of a free Zimbabwe in the hearts of Zimbabweans. I escaped Zimbabwe soon after
my release because my wife and my young children my wife and my young children forgive me these are my heroes. My wife and my young
children had been threatened whilst I was in prison. I had to get them to safety,
and I thank God that I did. As I was on the run President
Robert Mugabe issued threats publicly and literally banned
me from returning to Zimbabwe. He promised that if I
continued to meddle in politics of our nation that he would
put me in jail, and that is a promise that he would soon fulfill. But despite the threats
I decided to return home to Zimbabwe. On the first of February 2017,
I landed knowing full well that I might be arrested. I went back home, and it meant
that leaving my wife and children that I may never see them again and I still haven’t seen them. It’s been 13 months since I
saw my wife and our newborn baby, who I left when
she was only a month old. But I came to the critical
realization that my generation can no longer cower and
be absent from charting their own future. On arrival at the airport
I was immediately detained and interrogated for hours
by intelligence operatives. They wanted to know why
I had come back home. It’s home, I was born
here and I live here. I was thrown into Chikurubi maximum
security prison, and straight into the dangerous section,
where for 12 days I was denied my freedom. Once again this was for
having dared to criticize the government, and I was
charged with subversion. Throughout 2017 I was
arrested a further four times on further charges of
attempting to overthrow the government, and appeared
before courts over 22 times. One of those arrests was in
church on Sunday, right in the middle of delivering a sermon. I had to report regularly to
the police, and my passport which I could only access
through an application to the high court, giving detailed
reasons for travel, was seized. I was shadowed daily by
intelligence officers and that still even happens
today, including receiving death threats over the phone. On the 15th of November 2017
the military began an operation to oust Robert Mugabe. Even though, these are the
same people who had helped brutalize us for over 37
years, we the people saw an opportunity and a chance to
strengthen the citizen’s voice and bring a chance of change to Zimbabwe. Whilst out on bail I began
with other activists to mobilize Zimbabweans to march
to state house demanding Robert Mugabe to go. We had never done this before as a people. In fact, in our minds it seemed
impossible, but it happened. On the 18th of November
2017 hundred of thousands of Zimbabweans marched to
state house demanding Robert Mugabe to step down. On the 21st of November 2017
Robert Gabriel Mugabe resigned. We realize that the job is not done yet. Mugabe the person is gone,
but Mugabe the system remains. There is no place for
the kind of dictatorship we saw under Mugabe to
happen any more in Zimbabwe. As we head for elections we
continue to challenge the new administration to respect
democratic governance and the rule of law and in particular the constitution of our land. We implore them to promote
reforms that allow the freedom of our people to thrive. We ask them to respect
the original ideals of the libration struggle. We tell them to work zealously
to protect our women our disabled, the elderly, and our children. We implore them to promote
the youth, and set them up to be successors of a better nation. And finally, we force them
to put the interests of the country before those of
self or political will. On the 29th of November 2017 I
was acquitted of all charges and set free. Today we are suing the government
for the unlawful arrest and the abuse that I faced
at the hands of the police. Ladies and gentleman, Zimbabwe
the nation is rising from the ashes, and though our president
has said Zimbabwe is open for business, the question
that we keep asking is Zimbabwe open for freedom? Thank you.

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