Zimbabwean pastor Evan Mawarire. (File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Harare - Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested on Sunday by Zimbabwe police while preaching to a small crowd in a Harare suburb.

He was arrested while people were queuing for fuel around the city centre, which, for the first time in several years, was in short supply. 

Mawarire issued a social media communication on Saturday outside a fuel queue, urging Zimbabweans to stand up against the government’s imposition of a currency called bond notes introduced a year ago.

Harrison Nkomo of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told New Zimbabwe.com:  “We are at the Harare Central police station where the police have charged him with inciting people to commit public violence."

Mawarire’s weekend video, widely distributed to the social media community in Zimbabwe, also called on Zimbabweans to stand up against the government’s management of the economy. 

“Today there is fuel queue. We told the governor of the Reserve Bank at the time we knew where he was leading us. We have been here before, but you didn’t listen."

Another activist Promise Mkwananzi from Takamuka civic group said they had been working with Mawarire to organise a demonstration against the Bond Notes. 

“This has been necessitated by an acute decline in the value of a fictitious currency introduced by the Reserve Bank which we had forewarned about its futility. 

"We are saying that because of this RBZ governor John Mangudya and the entire Zanu PF cabal must step down. President Robert Mugabe is even failing to walk, he should be assisted to step down immediately,” said Mkwananzi.

The value of bond notes has crashed in value against the US dollar notes, which are the preferred currency.

 At present it is difficult to find any US dollars in Zimbabwe, with most people in urban areas shopping and paying their bills using either debit cards or mobile banking.  

Meanwhile, the rate of exchange between electronic cash, bond notes and US dollars began to spike in the last week. 

Mawarire is already on trial for speaking out at the University of Zimbabwe three months ago after students demonstrated against a sudden increase in fees. 

He was arrested last year, draped in the Zimbabwe national flag, after preaching to his congregation in the street about the state of the economy and lack of political freedoms during a short, but effective one-day strike in Harare. 

He was released after police charges against him were thrown out of court. He then left the country and came to Johannesburg before heading to the US with his family. 

The police issued a warrant for his arrest, prompting his return to Zimbabwe voluntarily early this year where he was immediately detained at Harare International Airport and charged with plotting to “subvert" the government. 

Last week, the US embassy in Harare said it was “monitoring” the trial of Mawarire and challenged the government to end arbitrary arrests and intimidation of citizens.

The state says it has eight witnesses who will testify against Mawarire when he appears in the Harare High Court on Monday, September 25.

He is accused of two counts of "subverting constitutional government” or alternatively “incitement to commit public violence” - charges which carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for the one charge and 10 years for the second. 

Independent Foreign Service