Letwin Nyambayo 10 September 2017
BULAWAYO – Evan Mawarire, the controversial cleric who popularised the
#ThisFlag movement on Friday visited the City of Kings to lead the
Zimbabwe prayer Night of Hope at Harvest House International Church.
After the church service, the Daily News on Sunday’s Letwin Nyambayo
caught up with him for a brief interview in which he talks about his
political future, his church, family, #ThisFlag campaign and his current
Q: Are you standing in the 2018 elections as you once promised?
A: Well, I think that the 2018 elections are a very crucial time for
Zimbabweans and we have to be measured in terms of how we get involved,
now what I said was that and what I continue to say is that the door
remains open for me as a Zimbabwean, it’s my right to be able to stand if
I so wish. But I think we have a lot of work to do to galvanise the
citizens in Zimbabwe, to bring them around this idea of unity and
especially hope. I think I have a job and a role to play on that so every
day I am reassessing what my role is but certainly running for office
remains one of those things that I would consider myself for.
Q: You want to run as what – MP or president?
A: Again I think it’s one of those things that as things continue to
change my decision also becomes a little bit more pointed. I would love to
run for a parliamentary seat, I doubt that there is anyone who would
refuse to run for president if they had the chance because it’s an
opportunity to develop our nation, to help people and it’s the most
powerful position to do, so I think that again that still remains as
lingering. I must stress how important it is for people like me to play
the role I’m playing right now completely and to exhaust it, uniting
people, bringing back hope and causing people to be courageous and bold
Q: Which constituency would you like to run for?
A: Again I think that’s something I still have not made a decision about
but certainly I think that a lot of young people need to make themselves
available for constituencies where they grew up, where they currently
stay, because they have grown up with the issues, they know what’s going
on there and I think that’s the model that is going to help Zimbabwe.
People that are from those constituencies or neighbourhoods should
represent the kind of issues that they have seen growing up.
Q: People say you have slowed down in your engagements, why is it that you
are no longer as active as before?
A: I think our movement and our kind of engagements with people are going
through a transformation or a change and I think that slowing down or
being a little bit quiet has been tactical. I have been taking time to
recuperate. I have also been taking time to attend to the cases that are
in the courts currently and I think it’s been wise for me to try my best
not to frustrate that goings on or to increase the number of cases that
are hanging over my head. The one thing that the State continues to do to
activists like me is to keep us tied up in legal cases, so I’m trying my
best to keep those as low as possible, but I think it’s important to note
that the way things are going is that the engagement is shifting into a
different form. So it’s not that I have slowed down but I think I’m
changing tact as well. I’m starting to appeal a lot more to young people,
I’m appealing also to a place that is natural to me – the church. I have a
job and a mandate as a pastor to play there and I think it’s important for
me to also do that in a measured way and in a calculated way.
Q: Is your church still there?
A: The church is still there, His Generation Church is still growing
strong. It’s important for me to be honest about the fact that when I was
incarcerated both last year and this year, our church did suffer a little
bit. People in Zimbabwe are afraid, so some people felt this was not what
they joined the church for, they were afraid that they would be victimised
and scrutinised and some people left the church. Despite that our church
is still growing strong and I’m thankful to the leaders and pastors who
continue to do a fabulous job seven years after we started in 2010.
Q: How far are you with the court cases?
A: I have two court cases pending, one has been set for September 12,
that’s for the case where I was arrested at the University of Zimbabwe for
standing and praying with protesting students and then the trial for the
case for subversion has been set for September 23. So the two cases now
have trial dates, we have been considering a constitutional approach for
the subversion case but you know even at the High Court where I shall face
trial for it, that case is a weak case for the State and I know that we
will be able to see justice served if we stick to the Constitution and the
law of this country.
Q: Do you think going overseas had a negative impact on the movement’s
A: I think when I left it did slow the momentum. I think we can’t run away
from that, people had an expectation and you know when people are
desperate and something looks like it is going in the direction of their
expectations, they really want it to work. And I have always said to
people that had I been in their shoes, I would have possibly been as
disappointed as they were when I left but I also I think that if they were
in my shoes, they would have understood why I made the decision that I
made at the time. My wife and children had been threatened, my wife was
pregnant and I really wanted to make sure that my daughter was born well
and that I spent some time with her before I came back. One of the things
that I’m excited about is that I fulfilled my promise of coming back home
to Zimbabwe where, of course, right now I am not allowed to travel and I’m
still in custody, out on bail and still facing the abuse of the system.
Q: Whatever happened to #ThisFlag campaign?
A: Well #ThisFlag campaign again still goes as you can see I have my flag
with me – I don’t leave it, I go everywhere I can with it. It’s not true
that the government has banned the national flag, it’s impossible, they
have threatened citizens, so #ThisFlag campaign is still there, and it’s
still going strong. The important thing is; it’s not about me as Evan
Mawarire, this flag belongs to all Zimbabweans, it’s about everyone and I
think when the government tried to ban the flag more than anything else
they gave us victory, so #ThisFlag already succeeded in terms of its
Ideals. It was about bringing Zimbabwe back into the hands of Zimbabweans
and that began by taking back some of the symbols that had become a
reserve only for the political elite. So I think #ThisFlag campaign
succeeded in making people stand up and speak out – since last year until
now, I think there is a marked difference in terms of the number of people
that speak out and speak up against the injustices in Zimbabwe and so in
that sense it succeeded and I think it continues to take on different
forms and it will also become more visible as we go towards elections as
Q: Where is your family?
A: My family is safe away from this country, when I went overseas I left
them there and I think for me that is the only consolation I have that
they are safe. It’s very difficult to be away from my family, I miss my
wife and my children and my newest daughter has grown up and doesn’t know
me. I think that’s the price that we have to pay to be able to get the
kinds of freedoms that we are looking for, many people paid that same
price when they went to the war in the 60s and the 70s and I think our
generation has to also face the fact that the kind of freedom we want for
our nation is going to come at a price. And we have to start paying that
price and this is part of it, not being with my family.
Q: How do you see the political environment as we go into campaigns for
A: There has never been a time in the political environment in Zimbabwe
where inspiration and the need for something that people can believe in
has been more needed or evident than now and I think at this point the
political environment is uninspiring, it’s very disappointing to watch.
The ruling party continues to let the economy slide down. It’s
disappointing to watch the opposition fail to unite and fight among
themselves and I think there is despondency within the people of Zimbabwe.
People really want something to believe in, I think this is part of what
we are trying to do, like we did with the Zimbabwe night of hope in
Bulawayo, to say we do have hope, we can believe in ourselves, we can
unite, we can tell the politicians which way to go as citizens. So unless
something changes, I think the despondency is going to be our biggest
enemy going into the 2018 elections. My biggest prayer for the looming
2018 elections are on two things; that they would be safety and peace for
everyone and that our elections will be free and fair.
Q: Are you joining other political parties in any coalition?
A: I think there is a lot of wisdom that needs to be applied in terms of
joining parties and coalitions, I already did stand in solidarity with the
MDC Alliance the other week and went there to give them a message of
uniting the people of Zimbabwe and letting them know that if this is going
to work they must keep the doors open for everyone. So while I might not
be out rightly supporting a particular alliance or coalition, my job is to
continue to say to the actors and the players; invite everyone on board,
open the doors, keep the doors open and have the country at heart because
that what will help us going forward. That’s the role I am playing.
Q: But why not join them now as campaigning hits the ground?
A: I think that joining is not the main thing to do, but I think playing a
role to make sure that, those that are forming are forming something that
is credible for everyone to join is. I mean they have my support, for me
they are pro-democracy movements but even then, it’s important that
pro-democracy movements have voices that speak to them about some of the
issues that they are either not seeing or that they are not considering as
being mainstream issues going forward. One of the things that is evident
is that many people have lost confidence in things like the alliance or
the coalitions. It’s part of my job to try my best to first of all speak
to the Alliance about being something that is likable, that people can
believe in and then speak to the people themselves and say; hey, listen,
this could be something that’s going to work. I have got to be responsible
in that I can’t drive a person towards something that is going to fall off
Q: In your own view, do you think the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)
is doing a good job and do you think they are capable of administering
over a free and fair election?
A: I think Zec has a lot of challenges on their hands and one of the
biggest challenges they have is the credibility challenge. They need to
prove now more than ever to the people of Zimbabwe that they are an
independent commission and not one that is captured or one that is serving
the interests of one side. So in terms of them doing a good job, I think
that they could do better, they need to be doing better to inspire
confidence again in all the actors. It has to be fair and forthright with
information, in acting prudently, in being just, and I think that they
have been found wanting in the last couple of months when it comes to that
fairness. So there is room for improvement, they don’t have a lot of time
to show that they are for everyone and not just for one side
Q: Any last words to Zimbabweans?
A: Can we focus on uniting our nation and can we come to a place where
each of us realises that before we are Shona or Ndebele, or Kalanga, or
Tonga, before we are black or white before we are Zanu or MDC or NPP, or
Transform Zimbabwe International, we are Zimbabwean and that should bring
us together. When the night of hope comes to your city, come; let’s pray
for a better Zimbabwe together.