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Zimbabwe’s Pastor Evan Mawarire: ‘I’m coming home, and I don’t know what is going to happen’

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Just prior to returning to Zimbabwe, Pastor Evan Mawarire spoke to SIMON ALLISON about why he’s going home, what he is going to do there, and why he doesn’t mind being labelled a regime change agent.

Pastor Evan Mawarire is not sleeping very well, and he’s got good reason to be nervous. “I only get a few hours a night at the moment. I stay up thinking about what is going to happen to me when I arrive,” he said.

After six months in exile in the United States, Pastor Evan Mawarire is going home. Pastor Evan, whose eloquent, emotional Facebook video calling for change in Zimbabwe ushered in a new era of resistance to President Robert Mugabe’s regime last year, returned to Harare on Wednesday.

“At some point one has to stop wishing they were home, and actually pack their bags and go home,” Mawarire told the Daily Maverick, in an exclusive in-depth interview just prior to his return.

Speaking first from the United States on an encrypted phone line, and then again in-person at a guest house in Johannesburg, Mawarire said that he always planned to return to Zimbabwe at the earliest possible opportunity.

“Zimbabwe is home for me and my family. That’s the place where we have a right to be without acquiring a visa, we are citizens of Zimbabwe. The president of Zimbabwe made comments to the effect that I was not welcome in Zimbabwe, but he doesn’t get to make that decision for me. I have not committed a crime, I’m not a fugitive, I’m a citizen, and an upstanding citizen for that matter.”

But he is unsure what kind of reception he will receive on his arrival at Harare International Airport. He is right to be nervous. Zimbabwe’s government has a long track record of mistreating dissidents and opponents. He goes through the potential scenarios: “I arrive at the airport and I get questioned. I arrive at the airport and I get arrested. I arrive at the airport and they ignore me. I go to my house, and they arrest me there a few days later. Or they abduct me, which is even worse. Or maybe they just ignore me completely. I just don’t know what is going to happen.”

In mid-July 2016, fearing for the safety of himself and his family, Mawarire fled Zimbabwe, along with his pregnant wife Samantha and their two children. This came shortly after Mawarire’s arrest on spurious treason charges, which were thrown out of court after an unprecedented show of popular support for the pastor forced the presiding judge to uphold the letter of the law.

President Mugabe had some harsh words for Mawarire following his departure: “So beware these men of cloth, not all of them are true preachers of the Bible. I don't know whether they are serving God. They spell God in reverse,” Mugabe said in a public address. “The Mawarires, if they don't like to live with us, let them go to those who are sponsoring them, to the countries that are sponsoring them.”
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