Social media in Zim awash with #thisflag pastor arrest
Evan Mawarire, popularly known as the ‘Flag Pastor’ in Zimbabwe, had called for a stay away on Wednesday in a video posted on Facebook earlier in the week.
A big crowd gathered outside the Harare Magistrate Court as the clock ticked away.
The state has accused him of inciting public violence after he handed himself to police in Harare on Tuesday.
As many as 100 lawyers under the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights swarmed the court while fellow church leaders in Zimbabwe castigated the arrest of the flag pastor.
“We raise concern on growing harassment and arrests of religious leaders, such as the recent arrest of Pastor Evan Mawarire, and also the intimidation to other pastors speaking on behalf of powerless people,” said leaders of church groupings in Zimbabwe in a statement on Wednesday.
On Facebook and Twitter most discussions centred on the arrest of the Zimbabwean clergyman.
Shingi Munyeza, a businessman and pastor at Faith Ministries in Zimbabwe, tweeted around lunch hour:
“Come to the Magistrates Courts in Harare. I've never seen so many pastors together on a non-church event!”
Public sympathy with the Flag Pastor was overwhelming, with the tags, ‘Harare Magistrates Court’ and ‘Rotten Row’ – where the court is located – top trending on Twitter. A simple search on #theflagpastor on Facebook gave the response that “14 621 people talking about this” at a given moment.
Zimbabweans have started to stand up to President Robert Mugabe and his government following nationwide protests last week against corruption, police roadblocks and calls for the leader to quit.
A stay away protest action called by the arrested campaigner did not materialise as most people reported for work. Business activity was normal in Harare’s central business district and environs although there is growing resentment over the government’s arrest of Mawarire.
At the Harare Magistrate’s Court, a big crowd had gathered and there was talk among those gathered that the state feared bringing Mawarire for court proceedings.
Harrison Nkomo, the lawyer for Mawarire, said he was wrongfully in court. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights grouping also updated that he was now facing new charges on subversion, with the state opposing bail.
Despite the day winding to a close, there was still a big crowd at the court, with most draped in the Zimbabwe flag. Mawarire has used the #thisflag tag to campaign for Mugabe to step-down.
The government has threatened in the past week to deal ruthlessly with people “abusing social media” platforms.