How to ‘RETURN’ Pastor Evan Mawarire #TheHype #ThisFlag

Opinion

By Thompson Chengeta

You should know that Zimbabweans have been screwed by politicians and opposition parties for decades. And yes, as a result, we have trust issues. All that people want is TO KNOW the whole plan, the truth and the whole truth! ‘Put a ring on it’ and we will be all yours again. Before that, we may have to sleep in separate ‘beds’!

#ThisFlag once made the fatal error of losing momentum in opposition politics when Pastor Evan Mawarire was acquitted and masses gathered for him at the courts. The same must not happen again on his return.

I don’t know if I am the only one, but if possible, Pastor Evan Mawarire should form a political party immediately, and if of age, run for Zimbabwean presidency in 2018, if not, let the movement find and persuade a young reputable candidate to lead the said party.

We have already expressed disappointment with existing political parties. Who knows, we may as well shock ourselves, existing political parties and vote MAWARIRE.

Without transforming into a political party to contest in the 2018 general elections or endorsing an existing political party or making known its intentions in the upcoming elections, people will continue to question the motives of #ThisFlag movement and inevitably, conspiracies will take root.

It is very unfortunate that the Government of Zimbabwe continues to harass its citizens and violate human rights with no restraint. On the face of available facts, there is no doubt that the arrest and incarceration of Pastor Evan Mawarire is a violation of a number of his freedoms and rights guaranteed in our constitution and international human rights treaties signed and ratified by Zimbabwe. Like many others, I personally demand that the Government of Zimbabwe release Mawarire and quash the dubious charges it keeps spinning.

However, I just want to focus on why it is difficult to create the same hype about Pastor Evan Mawarire – the same kind of hype that existed before he left for the United States – in particular, on the day he was acquitted and a huge gathering was at the court, many applauding, some praying, some crying, some singing and everyone happy. It is obvious that things are not the same now when Pastor Evan Mawarire returned and got unjustly incarcerated.

To understand the difference, one would need to understand why Mawarire was well-received in the first place. His video #ThisFlag which went viral – raised concerns that resonated with the majority of Zimbabweans. Although he may not have planned it – the majority of us saw a leader in him. Many people had no hope in a country where ZANU PF is the devil’s incarnate and opposition parties appear to be very weak.

With the rise of Mawarire, many were given hope; many saw a potential president – or at least a potential leader of a future vibrant opposition party. Yet today, many are not sure whether or not there are on the same wavelength with Pastor Evan Mawarire.

This is not to say that people who formerly supported him or who still support him – with less enthusiasm of course – want to see him incarcerated, no, it’s just that people are not sure anymore as to whether they are still in the same boat as far as political ideology and political plans are concerned.

Because the leaders of #ThisFlag movement have not been forthcoming with information – in particular, as regards Pastor Evan Mawarire’s return, some people have already started pedalling political conspiracies – the kind that is not so pleasing to many Zimbabweans. However, I would rather not delve into unsubstantiated content. There is, however, one thing which I can say: people can ONLY whole-heartedly support what they KNOW. I do not know about others, but I want to KNOW the whole plan.

When Pastor Mawarire left, he stated his reasons: –that he feared for his life and that of his family. Of course, many have questioned this but any level-headed person would understand the need to protect one’s family.

Yet, many questions have arisen on his return: whether upon return, Pastor Evan Mawarire thought that the danger to his person which he earlier perceived no longer existed. Now that he pre-recorded a video to be released in the event that he got arrested upon return, one can reasonably assume that he knew the danger still existed – at least that of being arrested – basically persecution. Again, because Mawarire is a citizen of Zimbabwe, I would not falter his return to his home country.

Having made it clear that Mawarire has a right to return and that his arrest is an affront to a number of his protected rights, there are things which his supporters – myself included – would need to know about his return: what is the plan? Is he in Zimbabwe to continue with demonstrations or not? Is he back in Zimbabwe to call for further ‘stay-aways’? Is he going to form a political party and run for election in 2018? Or is he going to join existing political parties? Is there a plan that is only known by his inner circles?

Of course, as a private citizen, Pastor Evan Mawarire would ordinarily not owe anyone an explanation as other bloggers have already indicated. The argument that Pastor Evan Mawarire may not need to answer these questions is generally premised on the idea that the actions of private citizens – albeit being public figures – cannot affect politics, the process that determines who gets what, when and how. That may not be entirely correct.

Actions of private citizens who choose to be part of the solution that we seek to the current problems definitely affect the prospects of success and the quality of such success. God forbid, actions of private citizens can actually be part of the problem.

Private citizens who are public figures and leading political movements are almost the equivalent of opposition parties who are not yet in power – especially in a country where opposition is not that vibrant. Therefore, Personal choices, I would say, are only personal to the extent that they do not directly affect the public.

It would be insincere to think that #ThisFlag – a movement he founded and lead – has no direct consequences for the general public – in particular when we are on the eve of the general election. It is for these reasons that I believe that some of the questions asked above deserve an answer. If the hype around the #thisFlag and its leader is to be recreated, its leaders should consider being more transparent – otherwise, conspiracy theories will continue to take root.

It is in relation to my thoughts above that I have found it an oversimplification of issues when other critics say ‘Zimbabweans don’t know what they want; they criticised Pastor Evan Mawarire for leaving and they now criticise him for coming back’. The issue is deeper and more nuanced than that.

Back then, when the movement #ThisFlag was started, I asked, not once, but several times, what the end plan was. I particularly wondered whether the plan was to continue with demonstrations, join opposition parties or form an independent opposition political party. Many people’s response was that we should not worry about the end game and opposition parties made it clear that they wanted to keep the ‘social movements’ separate from opposition parties. I became worried.

2018 General Elections are around the corner and saying let us not worry about the end-game is not helpful. First, no one wants to be a chess piece in someone else’s grand plan – especially when you do not know what that plan is. Second, we would not want the movement #ThisFlag to unwittingly create a vacuum that can be filled in by some of the political parties we already detest.

If Pastor Evan Mawarire is only back to lodge further demonstrations and ‘stay-aways’, it will be so difficult if not impossible to create the same hype as before – at least from my perception.

While demonstrations can change things, without any political structure, the movement #ThisFlag will only take attention away from opposition parties, giving ZANU PF yet another chance. Changing the kind of problems we have in Zimbabwe needs something to give in 2018. Using non-political movements through demonstrations will achieve something, but not enough – unless if the hope is that the demonstrations will degenerate into chaotic civil strife.

#ThisFlag once made the fatal error of losing momentum in opposition politics when Mawarire was acquitted. The same must not happen again on his return. I don’t know if I am the only one, but if possible, Pastor Evan Mawarire should form a political party immediately, run for Zimbabwean presidency in 2018.

We have already expressed disappointment with existing political parties. Who knows, we may as well shock ourselves, existing political parties and vote MAWARIRE. Without transforming into a political party to contest in the 2018 general elections or endorsing another political party or making known its intentions in the upcoming elections, people will continue to question the motives of #ThisFlag and inevitably, conspiracies will take root.

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