Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter—
The trial of This Flag Campaign leader Evan Mawarire accused of attempting to overthrow President Mugabe unlawfully, resumed yesterday at the High Court with a State witness equating the cleric’s movement to Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram. Boko Haram has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions in its fight to overthrow the government and create an Islamic State.
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During cross-examination by defence counsel Mr Harrison Nkomo, Detective Chief Inspector Edmore Runganga said Mawarire’s movement wanted to remove the incumbent Government through unconstitutional means. “It is just like the Boko Haram system. He started with a church and transformed it into a movement,” said Det Chief Insp Runganga. He said Mawarire was influential because when he allegedly incited people to challenge Government policies, his sympathisers responded with acts of violence and civil disobedience. “The accused is very influential and people listen to him as a man of God,” he said. Mr Nkomo said when Mawarire called for the shutting down of Zimbabwe he was merely expressing his thought.
He said Mawarire was also exercising his constitutional rights, which in terms of the constitution allowed him to criticise Government policies. In his response, Det Chief Insp Rungaga said Mawarire “perfectly committed the crime of subversion,” because his actions culminated in the widespread disturbances. Three more witnesses also testified in the trial yesterday before it was adjourned to today for continuation before Justice Priscillah Chigumba. Mawarire is denying the charges of subverting a constitutional Government and alternatively inciting people to commit public violence.
In his defence outline, he argued that the particulars of the first charge of subverting a constitutional Government did not disclose any offence and that he should be found not guilty. Mawarire denied neither attempting to overthrow the Government nor inciting violence, saying he was simply expressing his views through the campaign. He was arrested at the Harare International Airport in February this year on his return from the United States and appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court. He was denied bail, but High Court judge Justice Clement Phiri later freed him.
Charges against Mawarire arose between July 13 and December last year, when he used the print and electronic media to allegedly incite Zimbabweans to revolt against the constitutionally elected-Government. He allegedly urged people not to go to work and engage in violent demonstrations. It is further alleged that on September 15, 2016, Mawarire called on US-based Zimbabweans to converge in New York and confront President Mugabe, who was attending the United Nations General Assembly. He urged people to embarrass President Mugabe and call for his immediate resignation, the State alleged.