Evan Mawarire, the activist pastor who led Zimbabwe’s #thisflag movement during the last years of former President Robert Mugabe’s tenure, revealed Friday that he is taking legal action against the national police for damages related to multiple wrongful arrests in 2016 and 2017.
Beginning in April 2016, Mawarire posted videos calling on Zimbabwe’s government to address the economic woes, human rights violations and corruption causing its citizens to suffer. Beginning in July 2016, he was arrested on charges of inciting violence after appealing for citizens to peacefully protest, in what was the first case of charges dismissed – this time because they violated his constitutional rights.
He was arrested again in February 2017 and charged with subversion, and yet again while leading prayer at a campus protest, a scenario that prompted Amnesty International to describe Zimbabwe as “a government hell-bent on criminalizing him” while appealing for the release of a prisoner of conscience.
In September 2017, after leading an economic protest, he was arrested on a Sunday while at his church because of a video he posted to Facebook condemning the country’s handling of the currency crisis.
“Our client was not convicted for any one of the charges brought against him,” said Mawarire’s legal team in their filing, which specified arrest-related reasons for damages the pastor and his family incurred. They include impacts to his family, his livelihood, and his reputation and ability to preach and lead his congregation.
Mawarire was acquitted on a final subversion charge in November 2017 immediately after Mugabe was replaced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. “My prayer is that the oppression will stop,” he said in a statement from the courtroom following his acquittal.
Images: Evan Mawarire file