“Mawarire arrest may trigger protests”


HARARE – The detention of cleric and #ThisFlag campaign leader Evan Mawarire may trigger mass protests, a respected South African think-tank has claimed, with local analysts querying the claim.

The Oxford-linked NKC African Economics (NKC) in its latest research instalment on Zimbabwe said the country’s draconian security establishment has apparently failed to grasp that protests and demonstrations against corrupt, undemocratic and oppressive regimes are ignited and sustained by repression and not quelled by it.

“So the arrest of protest pastor Evan Mawarire last week spells more trouble for President Robert Mugabe,” the think-tank said.

“Despite some sentiment in Zimbabwe that Mawarire had abandoned his protest and let his supporters down when he fled the country, his arrest has once again galvanised support and given voice to anti-Mugabe sentiment.

“The heavy-handed response of the security establishment is likely to fan the flames rather than douse them, and several sources in Harare said at the weekend that his arrest had resulted in resurgence in the protest movement and that more clashes with security forces could be expected in the coming weeks.”

But University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said: “On Mawarire’s arrest, I don’t think it’s going to trigger any protests. I doubt that. But you never know, protest is something which can come without notice, but this year, I see things differently.”

Mawarire was arrested last week at the Harare International Airport on his surprise return to the country after spending six months in self-imposed exile, mostly in the United States. He was subsequently charged with attempting to subvert Mugabe’s constitutionally-elected government, public violence and insulting the national flag.

Unless he wins his bail application at the High Court today, Mawarire would be at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison until February 17 before he goes back to court for his routine remand.

According to NKC, the demonstrations momentum will pick up as Zimbabwe moves towards 2018 general elections.

“This is partly because of the arrest and threats to Mawarire but also because new elections are now within range as they fall due next year.”‘

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