President Robert Mugabe yesterday used the burial of his former chief secretary, Charles Utete, to berate #ThisFlag movement leader, Evan Mawarire, and accuse him of receiving foreign funding to cause unrest in the country, a clear indicator the pastor’s campaigns have rattled him.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mugabe said Mawarire — who has led peaceful protests against corruption, poverty and abuse of office by senior government officials — and those who chose to follow him should leave the country.
“The Mawarires, I don’t even know him, and those who believe in that way of living, well, are not part of us in thinking. They are not part of us as we try to live together,” the veteran leader said.
“If they don’t want to live with us, they should go to those countries sponsoring them. We will say no, forever.”
Mugabe questioned Mawarire’s authenticity as a man of the cloth.
“Find another environment if you are a pastor, I don’t know if he is a man of religion. A man of religion will speak the biblical truth. First Corinthians, what does it say? Love one another,” he said.
“So beware these men of God, not all of them are true preachers of the Bible. I don’t know whether they are serving God, well, we spell God, G-O-D, they spell God in reverse. You cannot urge people to resort to violence as a way of resolving issues.”
Mawarire was arrested and hauled before the courts last week after leading a complete shutdown of the country in the prior week, demanding Mugabe acts against errant ministers and finds solutions to the country’s deteriorating socio-economic and political environment.
However, provincial magistrate Vakai Chikwekwe dismissed the case, accusing the State of failing to put its house in order, freeing Mawarire on an emotive day that saw more than 5 000 people from all walks of life stage a vigil outside the courthouse.
On Monday, Mawarire, in an interview with CNBCA Africa, said Mugabe was to blame for the rot in government, defiantly calling for “peaceful protests to hold our government to account”.
“We have tried to follow procedure, but how long have we done that and getting zero results? Proper procedures themselves are corrupt. You have government ministers owning properties and businesses that cannot be explained in terms of value. The Head of State (Mugabe) has to take action,” he said.
Asked on his position regarding Mugabe and his seemingly soft approach in dealing with the veteran Zanu PF leader, Mawarire retorted: “This campaign is not an attack (on Mugabe). We are a legitimate voice of citizens that there is to tell our government that enough is enough. Our concern with government includes the Head of State and his appointments concerning these issues. He is as much responsible for what happens in government as anyone in the administration.”
Mawarire also moved to quell rumours that he was preparing for a political career.
“Zimbabweans have to realise that this flag is in their hearts, not in Mawarire. I think already we are in politics. I am not going to be a politician; I have to remain a citizen because this is where our power and our strength lie,” he said.
Meanwhile, a visibly tired Mugabe yawned through his speech during the burial of Utete at the national heroes’ acre.
Less than 24 hours after attending the African Union summit in Rwanda the previous day, Mugabe looked jaded as he walked up the long aisle at the National Heroes’ Acre amid whistling, ululating and chants of “Gushungo, Gushungo” from the crowd.
At one point a limping Mugabe, hands thrust firmly behind his back, struggled to drag his legs and one foot appeared to get stuck in the red carpet.
The civil service came to a standstill, as buses carrying government employees to work in the morning were reportedly commandeered to the national shrine over fears the crowd “would not be large enough for the President to address”.
Mbare Musika and its environs, including the popular Mupedzanhamo — usually a hive of activity and bustling market stalls — were also forced to shut down, as traders were ordered to attend Utete’s burial.