As #ThisFlag movement sweeps across the country and beyond borders, the man behind it Evan Mawarire, who has become an international sensation, says if President Robert Mugabe fails to deliver he should leave office.
In one of the interviews, Mawarire even shed tears while narrating his ordeal.
The Daily News on Sunday sat down with Mawarire before his arrest and below are excerpts of the interview.
BM: What does #ThisFlag movement stand for?
EM: The movement stands for the inclusion of citizens of Zimbabwe to speak into matters that build the country. It is to strengthen the voice of the citizen; it is to teach the citizen to stand up and to speak, and stand up and get involved and to get government accountable.
A key component is not to be afraid anymore, which for me is an emphasis because we have been afraid, it’s not a secret that Zimbabweans have been afraid to speak and afraid to talk, particularly when it comes to issues of national governance.
BM: Did you ever think the video you posted in the beginning was going to get much attention and the campaign get the prominence it has?
EM: Honestly the whole thing has caught me by surprise in terms of the response of people, but it shows me that indeed people have had enough, and it shows that this is not a joke, it’s not just a Facebook thing that we are saying we have had enough, indeed, for sure we have had enough, it’s been 36 years.
The first years kind of worked, but after some years it was clear that there was a problem in the way government was running things.
It shows everyone else is exactly where I am at, because it started with me saying that enough is enough, I can’t provide for my kids, I can’t fix my car, I can’t even buy a house, in this country.
I am 39 years old and I can’t even buy a house. My friends who live abroad, they are on their second mortgage, that pains me.
Our main concern is we can’t leave a country like this to our children. For people like me, we represent the last generation that has the institutional memory of a Zimbabwe that works.
And you know government actually doesn’t get. They go every month with their salaries, yet
the rest of the citizens are suffering.
BM: What is your take on the sanctions mantra that government keeps using as the reason why Zimbabwe is in such a mess?
EM: Its old news, find a way around it, you created the mess, so don’t tell us kune Zidera hamuna kupihwa ma sanctions by the citizens, fix it, you are paid to do that.
Someone said to me don’t just present problems without solutions, so you want me to complain about a problem, give you a solution and then pay you a salary again, ah no man!
Tiri vanhu vanofunga, no no no, you admit, first admit that you are wrong, and you are sorry to us, you can’t solve problems without the people.
BM: Would you be interested in having an audience with government officials, or the president?
EM: For me, whether or not we have an audience the issues will remain the same, what will an audience do for me that these people have failed to do in the last 36 years. So I turned to my fellow citizens.
They need to admit that they are wrong and need to make drastic changes.
Corruption, injustice and poverty, those are the three things that need to be dealt with heavily, and they know this, their officials are corrupt.
BM: And then we move on to the aspect of fear, Zimbabwe has a history where people who have been vocal on governance issues have disappeared, for example, Itai Dzamara, don’t you fear that, as well for your family?
EM: I won’t lie to you, it’s there, the fear is there hapana munhu asingatyi kuti never never, kutya kuripo, but when we say hatichatya, we have got to a place where I have considered the risk, and said how much longer should I keep quiet?
And the people said to me the other day, you will die and I said kusiri kufa ndekupi? And they said you will disappear but every day we see things disappear every day, our money, our dreams our health system is disappearing every day, and our infrastructure. If I disappear so be it, because we can’t go on like this.
My thanks to Dzamara is that a thousand more people have replaced him who are now talking, if Mawarire disappears then 50 000 more and it will keep getting louder and louder.
You can’t take everyone, so it’s a sacrifice, it’s a big sacrifice but it’s one that must be taken.
BM: And your wife and kids what do they say?
EM: You know my wife has been a great support, she said to me, ‘I don’t have the kind of determination and guts that you do, but I’m glad that you have it’ and I know you are thinking about our safety as you do this and there is no other way that this can be done, and I understand that.’
She just said to me do what you have to do, we will be safe, we will make sure we are safe. My family is my first priority, I love them, but it is also because of that love that I’m doing this.
BM: Why do you think government uses this tactic of fear, if they use it?
EM: From my perspective the reasons are varied, but when people start to challenge you to be accountable, it exposes a lot of things. I think that within government, there are characters so entrenched in corruption that they will do anything to cover up.
They have taken from the citizens without shame for years and now they are afraid that people will find out and demand for them to be brought to book. So what you do naturally is to try and keep the gravy train going and you try to shut people up.
BM: Do you think the church in Zimbabwe and church leaders are doing enough to hold government accountable?
EM: Each person makes a decision on what role they are going to play and I think the risk is different. Some leaders have weighed the risk and thought it’s too much, because they don’t want to lose what they have and they felt they didn’t want to politicize their roles. But when you look at the bible you can see, man of God got involved with the way nations were run.
They would go and challenge the Kings, and challenge the rulers of the day when things went wrong.
And for pastors some are afraid of character assassination, because as a pastor that’s where your value is. And we have seen it before where a pastor who speaks out ends up with a scandal being exposed, and it’s a tactic that the system uses.
BM: What’s your assessment of social media movements, are they the way to go for this generation?
EM: I think our generation finds social media as a real world for us, we communicate, we talk, we socialise, we share things we grow ideas on social media. This is why #ThisFlag has worked because citizens have been able to communicate.
It may not be the only way to go, but in this day and age you cannot rule it out as a way.
BM: If an existing political party approaches you would you join them?
EM: One of the successes of this flag is that it has been an apolitical movement, and it just said as citizens we are tired of political parties and I think personally I would like to keep it that way.
If I do decide to be in politics it’s my right. By being a citizen I have already started. I don’t think I will join any existing political parties, or join the movement to any existing political parties, part of the ethos with #ThisFlag is ‘your personal story is being joined to other stories and your struggle to many other struggles to create THE struggle of our generation.
What inspires me in doing this whole movement is thinking about the fact that, my children will ask me one day, what happened? Where were you? And what were you doing? And part of what I am doing here is to be able to teach our children to be fearless and be bold when building your country.
BM: Any word to Zimbabweans as we wrap up?
EM: Zimbabwe is ready for the next chapter, the question is, are we ready to open that chapter, are we ready to walk into that chapter? This flag is part of getting to that door and opening it, stretch that hand and opening it. Let’s save what we can when we still have time. daily news