Zimbabwean pastor Evan Mawarire File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Zimbabwean pastor Evan Mawarire File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Zimbabwe's Pastor Evan found not guilty of subversion

By MacDonald Dzirutwe Time of article published Nov 30, 2017

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Harare - A Zimbabwean court found a pastor

not guilty on Wednesday of attempting to subvert the government

in a case seen as a barometer of judicial independence under new

President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Evan Mawarire was a strident critic of former President

Robert Mugabe who resigned last week after 37 years in power

week under pressure from the army and ruling ZANU-PF party.

Mawarire's #ThisFlag movement last year organised the

biggest protests in a decade against Mugabe over a deteriorating

economy, cash shortages and accusations of government

corruption.

He was arrested in September and faced up to 20 years in

jail if convicted.

Mugabe's critics say he used the courts as a tool of

repression. They want to see if Mnangagwa's government breaks

with the past, particularly given that he served in Mugabe's

administration since independence from Britain in 1980.

Amnesty International said in a statement they hoped that

the ruling represents a new beginning for the country.

Mawarire said he would keep up the pressure.

"If they (the new government) do to us what Robert Mugabe's

government did to us, we will do the same thing to them that we

have done to Robert Mugabe," Mawarire told reporters in court

room soon after High Court Judge Priscilla Chigumba's judgment.

"This could be evidence of a freer Zimbabwe but this case

had no legs to stand on. I think a lot more needs to be seen to

determine whether this is a free judiciary going forward," he

said.

Chigumba said state prosecutors failed to show evidence that

Mawarire's actions were a criminal offence. She also found him

not guilty of inciting people to commit public violence.

"He urged passive resistance, he urged prayers for peace.

How can prayers for peace be considered an unconstitutional

means of removing a constitutional government?" said Chigumba.

There was a sigh of relief from the handful of people in

court when the ruling was made.

Mnangagwa must address a crisis facing Zimbabwe's economy

that includes balance of payments problems and rampant inflation

and steer the country towards an election next year.

Britain could take steps to stabilise Zimbabwe's currency

system and extend a bridging loan to help it clear World Bank

and African Development Bank arrears, but such support depends

on "democratic progress", Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

"Those are indeed the things that we would try to do to help

Zimbabwe forward, but we've got to see how the democratic

process unfolds," he said on Wednesday on the sidelines of an

African Union-EU summit in Abidjan.

Reuters

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