#ThisFlag movement supporters divided over Pastor Evan Mawarire's US move

During a short visit to SA the M&G caught up with Evan Mawarire to discuss the significance of #ThisFlag and what's next for the protesting pastor.

Pastor Evan Mawarire (Paul Botes, M&G).

Pastor Evan Mawarire (Paul Botes, M&G).

Zimbabweans are at a crossroads. Pastor Evan Mawarire, the creator of the #ThisFlag movement, has come under fire in some pockets of Zimbabwean society for seemingly abandoning the cause to seek safety in the United States. Supporters of the #ThisFlag movement took to social media to voice their feelings of betrayal by Mawarire’s failure to return to Zimbabwe.

Two days after the 36th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule, Zimbabwean pastor and motivational speaker Evan Mawarire shared a video expressing his feelings towards his home country – and inadvertently started the #ThisFlag online movement.

Mawarire was briefly detained in July by Zimbabwean authorities on charges of inciting violence which was later altered to the serious one of “subverting a constitutional government”. Zimbabweans rallied around him, going as far as to show up at the courthouse to peacefully protest his arrest. The move was unprecedented, legitimising the movement and sending a strong message of defiance to authorities. Following his release, the pastor briefly settled in South Africa, touring the country and carrying out speaking engagements at universities. 

A new video has surfaced online showing Mawarire mocking his “haters”, the very Zimbabweans he had enjoined to make the Zimbabwean government answerable to the citizenry. The video caused fierce debate on whether the pastor had intentionally strung Zimbabweans along in order to get a US green card and ease his financial strain.

Mawarire’s announcement has been met with anger and disappointment as Zimbabweans at home and abroad are of the opinion the founder of the movement has “abandoned” the movement to live in relative comfort and safety while the people he urged to hold the Zimbabwean government accountable have no other recourse but to stay in the country he described as once promising but reduced to “horror and unimaginable disappointment”.

A member of the movement, Eleph Gula-Ndebele, spoke to eNCA earlier this year and had this to say about the #ThisFlag movement.

In a series of tweets, Gula-Ndebele expressed his discontentment in Mawarire’s conduct. Gula-Ndebele believes the protesting pastor is accountable to Zimbabweans who stood with him and continue to support #ThisFlag.

Jean Gasho, a Zimbabwean blogger, and activist penned an open letter to Mawarire expressing her feelings towards his emigration to the United States saying, “What first attracted me to This Flag was your humility, passion and eloquence. I remember saying often to my husband that “truly this man is a man of God”. I was once badly abused by a well known Zimbabwean Pastor in a situation that almost took my life and everything I had ever worked for, so it was truly refreshing to finally see a genuine Zimbabwean Pastor who has the needs of the people in his heart.” 

You can read her full letter  here.

Evan Mawarire had this to say when we caught up with him during his time in South Africa. 

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