By Tatira Zwinoira/Obey Manayiti
The man behind last week’s crippling stayaway pastor Evan Mawarire claims he survived an attempt to abduct him on Friday night but has vowed to lead another shutdown of the country this week.
Mawarire, the founder of the #ThisFlag social media movement, on Friday released a video recounting the incident, which he said happened at his Harare home.
However, he said he was not intimated and would lead calls for another stayaway on Wednesday and Thursday to force the government to meet demands of citizens who were calling for action against corruption and President Robert Mugabe’s resignation.
Other supporters of the stay-away are protest movements known as #Tajamuka/Sesijikile and Occupy Africa Unity Square.
“Fellow citizens, tonight has been one of those tough nights. Some men tried to abduct me against my own will, but they failed. I thank God,” Mawarire says in the video.
He said it was regrettable that some of the people involved in the coordination of the shutdown were being targeted by police.
The government has gained notoriety for its brutal response to dissent. Last year another activist Itai Dzamara was abducted and has not been accounted for.
Mawarire said the people would not bow down until their demands, which include the reduction of police roadblocks, paying civil servants on time, lifting the import ban on basic commodities and rescinding the decision to introduce bond notes among others, were addressed.
“Mr government, why can you not extend a hand that says I agree or that says let’s discuss. Why must you always extend handcuffs that say I want to lock you away and you are my enemy when you disagree?” he said, in reference to the arrest of protest leaders.
“That is the problem that we have in Zimbabwe, that you call people enemies just because they have challenged you on anything. That must change otherwise we are going nowhere,” he said.
He called upon the nation to brace for a two-day shutdown on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We say to government, if you don’t respond to our demands, we are shutting down again,” he said.
“Citizens, I want to ask you for a favour. I know we did this together last week and let’s prepare to do it again; I plead with you citizens, this is the only way this government will understand.”
Meanwhile, calls for a march to State House by unknown groups to force Mugabe to resign were ignored yesterday. Organisers of last week’s stayaway distanced themselves from the campaign which they associated with violence.
There was, however, a heavy police presence on the streets of Harare, with no signs of people attempting to march to State House from Africa Unity Square as suggested on social media.
National Vendors Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Stern Zvorwadza said the group behind the calls was mischievous as it wanted to reverse the growing momentum of the #shutdown Zimbabwe movement.
“It was their idea to masquerade as us [himself, Evan Mawarire and Promise Mkwananzi] as peaceful citizens. Our idea is to demonstrate in a peaceful way holding demonstrations and protests,” he said.
“We want to have peaceful demonstrations and protests to force the government to deal with the issues plaguing the country.
“Government cannot continue on this line of arrogance as we will show them that it can no longer ignore the cries of the people.
“The growing numbers joining the movement will end up forcing government to budge.”
Zvorwadza and Mkwananzi handed themselves to police on Friday after the law enforcement agents had sought to question them. As of yesterday, Mkwananzi was still in police custody pending a court hearing on Monday while Zvorwadza was freed.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said the wave of protests showed that the plight of Zimbabweans had gone beyond political parties.
“Zanu PF is no longer in control, citizens are taking back their power and so this registers displeasure which will force government to relook and shift policy because what is happening in Zimbabwe is a crisis of policy shifts,” he said.
Another cleric Patrick Mugadza, famed for his solo demonstration against government misrule, on Friday said the successful shutdown was a sign that God was acting on the Zimbabwean problems.
On July 1, Mugadza launched his campaign dubbed #Mugabe Must Fall that involves 40 days of prayer to coerce President Robert Mugabe to leave office.
He said they were setting precedence through the campaign for anyone who will be coming to rule after Mugabe never to take people for granted.
“That person must know that he or she must learn that if they do the same thing that Mugabe is doing then we will not tolerate it. We will pray them off,” he said.