Mugabe vows crackdown on preacher-inspired protests

  • 13/07/2016
Baptist minister Evan Mawarire (Reuters)
Baptist minister Evan Mawarire (Reuters)

Zimbabwe's government has warned protesters they will face the "full wrath of the law" if they heed a call by a detained preacher to continue with the biggest demonstrations in a decade against President Robert Mugabe.

Baptist minister Evan Mawarire has become a household name in Zimbabwe since he started a social media campaign in April that has tapped into mounting public anger over corruption, high unemployment and economic woes.

In a video recorded before his arrest on Tuesday, Mr Mawarire urged supporters to go ahead with further "stay at home" demonstrations.

He had called for a one-day protest last week which closed businesses across the southern African nation in the biggest strike since 2005.

"The police whose mandate is to protect life and property will be out in full force to deal with any disturbances that may arise," Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo told reporters.

"Let me warn the instigators behind the intended protests that they will face the full wrath of the law," said Mr Chombo, flanked by the ministers of defence and state security.

Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader at 92, has led the former British colony since independence in 1980.

Since then it has gone from being one of the continent's most promising economies to being a country mired in economic crisis with a reputation for rights abuses.

Mugabe vows crackdown on preacher-inspired protests

Robert Mugabe (Reuters)

After initially ignoring his grainy online videos, shot on a mobile phone and calling for mass protests, Mr Mugabe's administration has started to push back, especially after they attracted support from thousands of unpaid civil servants.

"Yes, he has been arrested for inciting public violence and disturbing peace," Mawarire lawyer Harrison Nkomo told Reuters.

He said police had raided his client's Harare home, office and church.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba was not available to comment on the charges.

A copy of a search warrant seen by Reuters said police believed Mr Mawarire was in possession of a stolen police helmet, baton stick and "other subversive material" that could be used to incite public violence.

The law under which the bespectacled 39-year-old has been detained carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Mr Mawarire said he broke no law in calling for the one-day shut-down last Wednesday.

More protests are planned for Wednesday and Thursday as part of Mr Mawarire's #ThisFlag movement, which aims to appeal to Zimbabweans' national pride and exploit the widespread use of social media in the country.