On August 4 2016 Pastor Evan Mawarire presented a lecture on the #ThisFlag movement at Rhodes. The lecture took place at the Barrat lecture theatre. Before the arrival of Pastor Evan Mawarire the event was chaired by Pepsy Chivhere and Tinashe Jani who invited Mr Marshall to open the evening with a prayer. Mr Marshall thanked God for the movement and asked that it grew stronger. The Zimbabwe national anthem was then sung and three speakers spoke about their shared experiences of Zimbabwe. As Zimbabweans their experiences affirmed the need for such a movement to ensure political and social change.
Pastor Mawarire opened his lecture with the statement “what a time to be Zimbabwean.” Then he proceeded to introduce himself as a father, a husband, a pastor, a friend and one of the many souls “famished by life devoid of the opportunity to contribute towards building the future that I want for my children, a future that my countrymen also want.” He said that he was not the most the qualified person to represent the desires and the cries of the people of Zimbabwe. He spoke of the disillusionment of those who had fought for Zimbabwe’s liberation as they suffered through the poverty caused by corruption “our parents have nothing, not because they did not work hard, they have nothing because someone was evil enough to take everything that they have worked for and then intimidate them into never asking or demanding explanations.”
He said that the movement was a stand against “disgraceful corruption [a] shameful merciless beast.” He spoke about how the corruption had impacted infrastructure and resulted in the brain drain of the Zimbabwean economy. The movement was a stand to “change this madness” in the form of injustice. The movement was representing people and their futures.
He spoke about people who have disappeared because they questioned and opposed the government. Pastor Mawarire explained that “there are men and women who have paid a heavier price than I have in saying the things that I have […] but today we stand up to say that not anymore shall a citizen who speaks the truth be mishandled and be subjected to abuse while we look.” He spoke against the high tax rates, unemployment, patriarchy and sexism.
He addressed Zimbabwean ministers questioning why they would allow a major referral hospital to not have water while their many houses were filled with swimming pools they did not use because they could not actually swim. Pastor Mawarire addressed the president “do you realise that one trip to Singapore can fund the building of a clinic and stock it with medication for months on end, how is it sir that we can identify and arrest people who want build their nation and accuse them of violence and treason and yet we cannot account or at least arrest just one person for a missing $15 million dollars?”
He illustrated the Zimbabwean narrative through a story of man who promises his wife that he will no longer drink alcohol. Immediately the man breaks his promise and becomes drunk only to cut himself due to his drunken state. The man then attempts to cover his wound without his wife’s knowledge, however, because he is so drunk he does not realise that that the wound that he was covering was a reflection of the mirror. Pastor Mawarire then substantiated his argument saying that he felt that Zimbabweans had been in a relationship with a husband that constantly lied and broke promises only to cover them up in such a ridiculous way so as to expect that they will believe it.
Pastor Mawarire called for people to get involved in the struggle using any and all their talents to benefit the struggle. He said that 36 years was too long a time to be silent and he invited everyone to make a decision that there will not be a 37th year. He asked for patience with the movement and advocated for non-violent protest. Pastor Mawarire called for everyone to get involved as he said that “the season needs everyone, it is not enough for one person to stand up, because I stood up doesn’t mean that it is my battle, this is not my movement it doesn’t belong to me, this is [also] yours.”
Pastor Mawarire laid out a proposal made to him by an activist in order to ensure the success of the movement, the proposal was to raise funds to bail out the government debt under their conditions, this he said was a testament to the ingenuity of ideas that this movement needed.
He also addressed his exile from Zimbabwe and the fact that Zimbabweans have to be their own heroes. Pastor Mawarire said that “if the people of Zimbabwe still need a mantra to die for them then they are not ready for freedom.” He concluded with two quotes: “If we cannot call the politician to change then we must inspire the citizens to be bold” and “We can no longer be divided by the politics of our nation but we must now be united by the dreams of our children.”
Written by: Nokwanda Dlamini