Zimbabwean police have arrested activist pastor Evan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag movement.
Mawarire was apprehended as he stepped down from his pulpit with the police accusing him of subversion for a series of social media posts that charged Robert Mugabe’s government had wrecked the economy, his lawyer said.
Lawyer Harrison Nkomo said Mawarire was arrested and charged with subversion, which carries a maximum term of life imprisonment, for a Facebook video he posted on Saturday lambasting the government over its economic policies.
Over the last few days, shortages of basic goods and fuel have emerged, resulting in panic buying by consumers. Prices of imported products are also going up, which businesses blame on shortages of foreign exchange.
Mawarire was already due to face trial of subversion over the 2016 protests at a High Court trial on Monday.
“He is due to appear in court tomorrow on subversion charges emanating from last year. So we really don’t know how the state will proceed,” said Nkomo.
Press and social media reports, including Mawarire’s post, on shortages of basic goods and foreign exchange were meant to cause alarm in the country, said Ignatius Chombo, minister of home affairs, the ministry in charge of the police, said in a statement.
“Government is closely monitoring the press and social media reports in question with a view to taking decisive action to deal a telling blow to the perpetrators of the crime in terms of the laws of the country’s justice system,” Chombo said.
Mugabe, 93, has held power since independence from Britain in 1980. He is under mounting pressure from angry Zimbabweans, as well as his war veterans allies, who last year rebuked him as a manipulative dictator and called for him to step down.