HARARE – The Kariba church of incarcerated “Mugabe-must-go” cleric, Phillip Mugadza, has disintegrated — with his fearful congregants moving to other churches as the activist clergyman continues to languish in remand prison in Harare.
In a heart-rending case which has received significant publicity locally and abroad, Mugadza has been kept in jail ever since he was arrested mid last month, after he controversially “prophesied” that President Robert Mugabe would die this year.
Speaking in interviews with the Daily News in Kariba last week, fellow clerics in the town and Mugadza’s former parishioners at his FROM p1
Remnant Church expressed the fear that they could suffer retribution because of his activism.
“It has not been an easy time for us since he was imprisoned. People have understandably left because they feared that authorities could also descend on them in the mistaken belief that they also want to protest against the government like he has been doing,” one former congregant said.
A local cleric said they had felt compelled to distance themselves from Mugadza after he began his activism, as continuing to associate with him might have sent “the wrong signals” to the government.
“We do pray for him, our town, our country and for the government but we do not want to involve ourselves in politics. As for his church, it no longer exists,” the cleric said.
Another one of Mugadza’s former congregants, Anwell Bepe, said the clergyman had been open with his parishioners about his activist intentions.
“The man of God has a deep passion for his country and that is what pushed him to do what he was doing. Even before he formed his church, everyone here in Kariba knows that he fasted for 40 days for Zimbabwe,” Bepe told the Daily News.
Mugadza has been wasting away in remand prison since January 19 when he was charged and then denied bail following his arrest for his “prophesy”.
A fortnight ago, the Harare Magistrates’ Court deferred by a further two weeks his case, saying it was too busy to deal with his matter.
Mugadza first hit the headlines in December 2015 when he mounted a one-man protest against Mugabe in Victoria Falls, during Zanu PF’s national conference at the resort, where he held a placard that read: “Mr President, the people are suffering. Proverbs 21:13”.
In April last year, he also chained himself to a pole while holding a cross in one hand and a Bible in another, in a daring protest action in Harare.
This time, the Remnant Church pastor is being charged with “criminal insult”, as well as undermining the authority of the president over his controversial prophecy which has caused palpable anger within sections of Zanu PF — which is riven by its seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars.
The outspoken Mugadza faces six months’ imprisonment, or a fine of $200 if he is convicted under Section 33 of the Criminal Law.
In his controversial “prophecy”, Mugadza had claimed that he had received a revelation that Mugabe would die in October this year.
However, he had also said that the nonagenarian could escape death by praying fervently, fasting and publicly announcing that he did not wish to die.
“I am not saying I am going to be killing him on October 17, so there is no way anybody can say to me what you have done is wrong.
“I am not going to be killing anybody, I am only saying what God told me, that he is going to die,” he said then.
Another activist cleric, Evan Mawarire, who was arrested at the beginning of this month, was granted bail last week after he approached the High Court, which overturned an earlier decision by a Harare magistrate to deny him bail.
Mawarire, the founder of the #ThisFlag movement, had been arrested on February 1 at the Harare International Airport, upon his surprise return from the United States of America where he had been living in self-imposed exile.
Mawarire is facing serious allegations of trying to subvert a constitutionally-elected government, which could see him serve up to 20 years in prison if convicted.