SOCIAL activist and cleric, Evan Mawarire, of #ThisFlag movement, made a surprise return to Zimbabwe late yesterday afternoon, and was immediately arrested by State security agents as he landed at Harare International Airport.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Sources revealed that Mawarire – who left the country six months ago – did not even go through immigration formalities, but was approached by three man, who immediately arrested him.
His lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, revealed earlier that Mawarire was being held at the airport.
“It’s true, he arrived at the airport and was immediately arrested. I have not been able to see him though and I am still trying,” he said at the time.
A grainy picture obtained by NewsDay later showed Mawarire being driven into town at the back of a police vehicle.
Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, also confirmed the cleric was being held by State security agents.
“I can confirm that he has been arrested. There are no fresh charges, he has an outstanding warrant of arrest,” she said.
It was not immediately clear when the said warrant was issued and which magistrate or judge had issued it.
Later, Nkomo told NewsDay that Mawarire had been moved to Harare Central Police Station’s Law and Order Section charged with subversion.
“Mawarire is being charged with subverting a constitutionally-elected government. He is likely to appear in court tomorrow (today),” he said.
Mawarire, Nkomo said, was travelling alone and it was not clear why he returned to Zimbabwe, as many had long assumed he was living in exile.
Mawarire formed social movement, #ThisFlag, after releasing an emotional video calling on Zimbabwe to stand up against President Robert Mugabe’s regime and demanding change.
He led demonstrations against corruption by Mugabe’s government.
Mawarire was first charged with subverting a constitutionally-elected government last July, but a Harare magistrate threw out the charge on a technicality, sparking mass celebrations after a tense vigil at the courts by ordinary people.
#ThisFlag used its Twitter account yesterday to announce Mawarire’s arrest: “Sadly PastorEvanLive has been detained at Harare International Airport after arriving back from SA this afternoon.”
South African media early yesterday reported that Mawarire had nervously announced: “I am going home.
“I only get a few hours a night at the moment. I stay up thinking about what is going to happen to me when I arrive,” he told Daily Maverick on Tuesday.
“At some point, one has to stop wishing they were home, and actually pack their bags and go home.”
Mawarire reportedly spoke using an “encrypted phone”, while still in the US, before flying into South Africa this week indicating he had always wanted to return home.
“Zimbabwe is home for me and my family. That’s the place where we have a right to be without acquiring a visa, we are citizens of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“The President of Zimbabwe made comments to the effect that I was not welcome in Zimbabwe, but he doesn’t get to make that decision for me. I have not committed a crime, I’m not a fugitive, I’m a citizen, and an upstanding citizen for that matter.”
Mawarire said he was aware of the dangers looming ahead as he flew into the country.
“You can never be 100% safe. But I think the amount of work that’s been done over the last couple of months, the different recognition from different platforms and the galvanising of many Zimbabweans that has taken place, for me is a very important constituency for safety,” he said.
In a short video clip with lawyer, Fadzai Mahere, a calm Mawarire – in handcuffs – said he was hopeful he would prevail.
“This is what has happened. Hello everyone, we thank God that I am well. Unfortunately, I have been arrested again,” he said.
“I hope we will get through this. This is home and I have committed no crime and I am allowed to come back home.”