Harare diocese supports the #ThisFlag campaign
The Christian churches of Zimbabwe have released a statement of “no confidence” in President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party, saying the regime is failing the people of the Central African nation.
On 13 July 2016, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe released a letter, endorsed by the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, and the Bishop of Harare, the Rt. Rev. Chad Gandiya condemning government persecution of religious leaders and pro-democracy activists. The rare joint statement came one week after a one day national strike organized by the #ThisFlag campaign, led by the Rev. Evan Mawarire. The Harare Pentecostal pastor was summoned for questioning by police following the strike, prompting street demonstrations in the capital. In an unprecedented defeat for the government, a magistrate ordered him released.
Writing on Facebook Pastor Mawarire said his lawyers had advised him to take refuge in South Africa as the government was preparing to rearrest him and charge him with treason and economic sabotage.
Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has been an economic basket case for over a decade. The government abandoned its currency in 2009 after inflation rendered it worthless, forcing it to use US dollars. The regime ran out of cash in April 2016, leaving soldiers, teachers and civil servants unpaid. The #ThisFlag movement has been non-partisan, not aligned with the opposition MDC parties, but is overtly Christian.
“My security is God,” Pastor Mawarire told the Zimbabwe Independent on 8 July 2016. “I go back to the Bible. It says unless the watchman watches with God, he will watch in vain. The God factor is driving me.”
The campaign has also been led by social media. While public demonstrations and newspapers have been successfully shut down by the secret police, resistance to the regime is now taking place on Twitter and Facebook.
The #ThisFlag movement and its “grievances must be viewed as the early warning sign which underlines the simmering tensions that will soon explode into civil unrest if not addressed. We call upon the government to immediately investigate and prosecute law enforcement agents that are alleged to have brutalised people,” the churchmen’s statement said.
“The government should also urgently act and address these genuine concerns of the citizens to avoid the total collapse of the state,” they said, noting the people had lost “confidence and trust” in President Mugabe.
“There is urgent need for national dialogue between the government and different national stakeholders, towards finding a lasting solution, rather than ignore or politicise people’s genuine grievances and label them as opposition, or demonise and harass the church and her leaders,” the statement said.