By Mlondolozi Ndlovu
It appears that Pastor Evan Mawarire has turned into a controversial figure once again, polarizing the already divided Zimbabwe. In his direction several allegations are being hurled mercilessly.
Some say ‘he ran away at a very critical stage of the revolution’, some, in insensitive fashion are labeling him ‘self proclaimed poor pastor who cannot afford food for his children, turning to activism to do so’. Some have defended him on grounds that the head of state openly made it clearly that he had become his enemies – and history has proven that ‘enemies of Mugabe die or dissapear.’
It would normally be encouraging to see Zimbabweans engaging in political discourse, but it is rather depressing when irrelevant trips become a subject of passionate debate, while more pressing and life threatening issues remain ignored.
I have never personally adored nor despised Pastor Evan Mawarire, his personal circumstances, nor his abilities. I felt they were not significant, nor relevant to the national plight. I did however mention in an interview on newzimbabwe.com that it was dis-heartening that a lot of ‘new players’ in Zimbabwe’s democratic movement were often mistrusted even needlessly.
“Mawarire generally is not a fighter, from what we have seen all along and from the questions that people have asked about him, it is clear that people who have toiled to keep the democratic train up and running should not be readily accepting new comers into the fold when questions still linger over their history. Their ideas if any should be accepted but not their individual brilliance,”
Like some form of prophet, i mentioned that charisma on its own ought not to be a determining factor in determining a leader. I stressed on the necessity of following the idea and not the man.
The debate of whether Mawarire should, or should not have left is moot and needless. The fact that it is even an issue proves that we are like the biblical chaff that is easily blown by the wind that and we can go to town and come back falling over each other for anything and everything.
What has given Zanu PF an urge over Zimbabweans for a long time now is the latter’s susceptibility to be easily distracted into ‘finger pointing’ debates when they are facing huge problems.
While some critics may view Mawarire as ‘ideologically unclear’, it is very important to note that he was addressing issues that are central for a responsible citizenship in the country.
Zimbabwean citizens are used mainly to being the ‘obedient citizen’ who sees no evil, speaks no evil of the government or any institutions they belong to.
This attitude is made worse by our culture and above all religion which has been very effective in creating a docile and passive citizenry.
However, Mawarire coming from this Christian background which under ‘normal’ circumstances would have restricted himself to the ‘pulpit and prayers’, chose to lament with the rest and spoke for the poor.
While Mawarire is not the first person to speak out against social injustice and has his own weaknesses (like any normal persons) his albatross being the fact that he is not a ‘natural activist’ but rather a ‘pastor’, something he probably took advantage of to voice his concerns.
Whether the purpose of him speaking out ‘may or may not’ have been to get an asylum in the UK (like what many believe) this does not dismiss the genuine issues he raised.
History will record Mawarire alongside our modern day heroes like Itai Dzamara , Tatenda Mombeyarara, Gift Siziba, Pride Mkono, Promise Mkhwananzi, (#Tajamuka/Sesijikile spokes) Linda Masarira among others for they have chosen to act when the dictatorship can be very dangerous.
A close analysis of most of Mawarire’s videos before he rose to political fame prove that the man has all along been more of a charismatic pentecostal pastor than your typical activist.
That he capitalized on his ‘pastoral abilities of appealing to emotions’ and stood up against the vices of corruption, incompetent leadership, mismanagement that are currently bedeviling our country should be commended.
The man deserves the credit for breaking away from the conventional obedient modern day pastors who most times keep quiet and prefer ‘praying for peace instead of bodly preaching against violence, oppression and exploitation of the poor’
Evan chose to hold the bull by its horns.
While some of Mawarire’s critiques are seasoned political activists who have seen it all in the monstrous Zimbabwean political minefield, these deserve to comment for they choose to remain steadfast when activism almost cost their lives.
Most of these people include well known Marxists and socialists, these have demonized him for lack of a clear articulation of his vision and failure to make known the kind of state he envisages.
These surely are justified, but must remember that every revolution needs intellectual guidance and such is their role, Mawarire played his- he reminded the young church if its role in politics and even the so called ‘salads’ for once now understand the government can be scrutunized.
For once we see the new consciousness he brought through the use of the flag.
Appropriating the national flag was a very powerful tool which has the ability of bringing a new form of powerful and effective passive resistance.
It is the role of the intellectuals to give directions to #ThisFlag such that it becomes a movement strong movement that shall not only be remembered for the number of likes, hits and tweets.
Some of his critics are those that have not been on the ground when it comes to fighting the dictatorship (these should stop desktop criticism and show us how it can be done).
The issues that Mawarire choose to speak against are very genuine and affecting almost all the Zimbabweans from across the political divide.
Granted, many people have accused him of lacking a clear ideology-for they say he is neither a Marxist, socialist or social democracy.
But as people know very well Mawarire is not a political person his understanding of politics is very elementary and is more of a pastor who bravely rose a bit above the ‘ordinary pastor tag’ and chose to speak out against the ills of our government.
By continuing to attack the pastor’s USA and Diaspora visits Zimbabweans risk falling into the pro-government agenda one which sees Zimbabweans as not able to think or their own.
As #ThisFlag gained momentum Zanu PF soon labeled Mawarire a mere traitor, ‘one who has been sent by the West to destabilise the country’ and hence the debate on why he is globe trotting has led to many people.
Why should Zimbabweans continue engaging in the debate on Mawarire who has gone missing (somewhere in the UK) and not direct their message continuously on the missing 15 billion?
Personally I don’t think Mawarire’s ‘running away’ should make him the topical issue affecting Zimbabwe, the enemy still remains the Zanu PF’s failure to run the economy.
Evan may have developed cold feet yes, but what the ideas he stood for are more important than the current debate on whether he ran away or is meeting the people.
We may criticize the pastor but let us turn the pages and look into the issues that he and other democrats are standing for.
If we do that then I am sure we will would avoided falling into the Zanu PF pit of thinking we are all gullible, let’s keep them accountable.
What is necessary is the need to keep a conscientised citizenry that will effectively decide come election time, what kind of leadership they want.
Mlondolozi Ndlovu is a journalist, activist and political commentator. He can be contacted on [email protected]