#ThisFlag movement leader Evan Mawarire was today acquitted of charges of inciting public violence and disorderly conduct at the University of Zimbabwe.
Mawarire’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo yesterday trashed the State case during cross examination of the first witness in a trial in which the cleric is charged with attempting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Witness Edmore Muchineripi Runganga, who is the investigating officer in the case, had a torrid time justifying how Mawarire attempted to subvert a constitutionally-elected government and how he had incited public violence.
This was after four of Mawarire’s videos were played in court in which he urged people to stay at home during a countrywide shutdown that took place on July 6, last year.
Runganga accepted that in the videos there was nowhere where Mawarire had urged people to engage in acts of violence, arguing instead that this could have been a coded message, which probably meant people must engage in violence.
He, however, could not justify this, adding that it was mere speculation as there was no witness to confirm that assumption.
Runganga also said that Mawarire’s calls for a "shutdown" and calling people to resist the introduction of bond notes and the import ban ushered through Statutory Instrument 64/2016, was a clear sign that he intended to subvert a constitutionally-elected government.
After grilling by Nkomo, Runganga failed to qualify how Mawarire intended to subvert a constitutionally elected government with his Bible and a flag. He also admitted that police did not find anything after searching his house.
"Why do you believe that a 40-year-old pastor with a Bible, a flag and records, videos in his house, has the capacity to subvert a constitutionally-elected government?" Nkomo asked.
Runganga likened Mawarire’s #ThisFlag movement to Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram. He claimed that Mawarire is influential and had brainwashed his church congregants, which resulted in the creation of #ThisFlag movement.
Nkomo further asked Runganga to place evidence proving that the violence that took place on the alleged dates were a result of his videos and to produce the alleged property that was damaged, which the officer-in-charge for CID Law and Order Harare could not do.
Allegations against Mawarire emanates from last year’s July massive strike dubbed #Shutdown Zimbabwe.
Allegations are that between July 13, and December last year, Mawarire printed and used electronic media to incite Zimbabweans to revolt against the constitutionally-elected government.
He was arrested on February 1, 2017 at the Harare International Airport upon his surprise return to Zimbabwe from the US.
The popular clergyman had at that point helped to organise one of the most successful and peaceful strikes in the history of post-independent Zimbabwe, with long-suffering citizens heeding his call to stay away from work to protest the country’s worsening rot.
Last year’s crippling strike forced the panicking Zanu-PF government to use excessive force to quell subsequent protests, as Zimbabweans agitated for change.
Mawarire is also facing a separate trial on incitement of violence charges after he joined demonstrating medical students at the University of Zimbabwe recently.
He was also removed from remand on Tuesday following his arrest on Sunday for recording a video complaining about fuel shortages. The court ruled that he had been over-detained.