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Event Summaries
March 5, 2018

Event Summary: Is Zimbabwe open for Freedom?

by
Henry Jackson Society

TIME:  17:00 – 18:00, Thursday 22nd February 2018

VENUE: Committee Room 6, House of Commons, London SW1A OPA

SPEAKER:

Pastor Evan Mawarire
Civil Rights Activist & Founder, #ThisFlag Citizen’s Movement

By kind invitation of the Rt Hon. Kate Hoey MP, the Henry Jackson Society was proud to welcome Pastor Evan Mawarire. Initially, Kate Hoey MP was absent due to her involvement in a debate which ran longer than anticipated in the Commons. In the intervening time Lord Chidgey took her place, and gave opening remarks in her place, before she regained the Chair halfway through the debate.

Pastor Evan Mawarire is a Zimbabwean clergyman who founded the 2016 #ThisFlag citizen’s Movement that challenges corruption and injustice in Zimbabwe. His grassroots movement and use of social media prompted strikes and protests against the Zimbabwean government. In 2017 he was instrumental in the protest march that led to Robert Mugabe’s resignation as president of Zimbabwe.

Pastor Mawarire began by giving thanks to the Henry Jackson Society for hosting the talk. He opened in an optimistic tone, voicing his feeling of encouragement with the recent developments in Zimbabwe, and underlined that the potential for further positive change seems to be gathering strength. Having said this, his thoughts then took on an altogether more sombre tone, he broke down the symbolism of the flag colours, including; agricultural pride, the history of Zimbabwe, and peace, all of which he claimed had either been degraded under Mugabe, or were threatened. He claimed that to have a successful future, these past wounds of Zimbabwe must be attended to.

He then moved on to talk about the impact Robert Mugabe had on civil society in Zimbabwe, saying that his time presiding over the country had crushed the Zimbabwean people’s will to resist, by conditioning the population to fear the consequences of dissidence. He said that this is partially why the protests overthrowing Mugabe were so symbolic; because Zimbabweans had overcome this fear to unite. He told a memorable story that he said was symbolic of the Zimbabwean youth; while he was imprisoned, he met a young boy, the boy’s parting remarks to Pastor Mawarire was a request for books to study for his exams. This, the Pastor said underlined the wider truth, that despite significant adversity, the youth of Zimbabwe are hungry to work for future prosperity. He closed the story by saying that the hope which the national identity of Zimbabwe brings, is greater than any individual, and therefore unites people, who otherwise may have been divided.

The Pastor then turned his attention to the current state of the Zimbabwean government, and expressed his disappointment that despite a promise of significant change, the previous government responsible for many of the regimes crimes had merely been reshuffled. He proclaimed that the freedoms Zimbabwean’s asked for during the protests are still nowhere to be seen. He added that the government’s actions towards protesters had been in contravention to the very constitution of Zimbabwe.

He then turned his remarks towards the British government saying that they should be careful not to champion economic gain, over the freedoms of Zimbabweans. The event was concluded with closing remarks from Kate Hoey, who thanked the Pastor, Henry Jackson Society and all those in attendance