by MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE, (CAJ News) – RIGHTS groups have welcomed the dropping of charges laid against a prominent Zimbabwean pastor accused of plotting to overthrow the government of now-ousted president Robert Mugabe.
The dropping of the charges against pastor Evan Mawarire by the High Court is seen as pivotal in the task for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to ensure individuals and groups criticized government without fear of facing criminal charges.
“The dismissal of this case affirms our long-held position that Pastor Mawarire was an innocent victim of Mugabe’s ruthless campaign to criminalise dissent,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.
“Hopefully the ruling signals a new beginning for the country, where the political repression which characterized Mugabe’s rule will no longer be tolerated,” Muchena added.
He said the task for new Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was thus to ensure that a culture of tolerance to views different from government was retained.
Mawarire, whom Mugabe claimed was sponsored to turn masses against him, was arrested and charged with subversion in January upon return from exile. Mugabe disgracefully asked the pastor to leave the country.
The church leader was later released on US$ 300 (R4 100) bail.
Mawarire led several anti-government protests in 2016 against corruption, human rights violations and the declining economy under Mugabe’s watch.
He paid tribute to fellow Mugabe critics still behind bars.
“Please remember the many across our country who are still charged for standing against oppression,” pastor Mawarire said.
Mugabe last week yielded to pressure to resign after over 37 years in power.
– CAJ News