Kariba-based Pastor Patrick Mugadza (PM) travelled to Victoria Falls early December to stage a one man demonstration against President Robert Mugabe, who was in the resort town for a Zanu PF annual people's conference. He was arrested and detained for 16 days on "criminal nuisance" charges.
Newzimbabwe.com (NZ) chief reporter, Nkosana Dlamini caught up with the defiant clergyman after his release on Thursday to hear more about his activism. Mugadza said just as the biblical Moses accepted God's order to tell Pharaoh to "let my people go" he had a duty to speak the truth and had "no regrets" after he was locked up for doing so.
Mugadza was released after magistrate Lindiwe Maphosa reduced his bail from $500 to $50. His lawyers had applied for a reduction, arguing the initial bail amount was both "exorbitant" and "unreasonable".
Below are excerpts of the interview:
NZ: Who is Pastor Mugadza?
PM: Pastor Mugadza is a pastor of the Remnant Church and he lives in Kariba.
NZ: What else should we know about you?
PM: I am 45 years old, a father of two boys. I have been so much involved with Zimbabwean issues for a very long time especially with prayer concerning the nation of Zimbabwe since about 2006. I actually once did a prayer walk from Bulawayo to Harare and that took me about nine days. Two years later, I did another one again from Harare to Marondera and on that one I was saying let's trust in God as Zimbabweans because of the political situation which was in the country back then.
Since about 2006, I have been praying for the nation of Zimbabwe. I have picked up a number of things concerning our nation. One of them is that, as a nation, we actually sinned against God when we elevated the President from Prime Minister so very highly that he became some kind of a god. With God, it does not augur well. This is what made God not to be very happy with our situation. Even the word of God says that whenever you sin against God, God will scatter you in different places. That is what he did with the children of Israel. When they sinned, they were sent away to other places.
What is going on is that the Zanu PF leadership we are having right now is the one that is being used to punish the nation for what we did. I have gone into prayer and said God, we are very sorry as a nation.
NZ: What else do you do besides pastoring?
PM: I am just a pastor and nothing else.
NZ: How was life in remand prison?
PM: The experience was not that good. The cell was only about 10 square metres and at one point, it took in about 17 people. If you have seen the historical books when people were taken in for slavery, the way they were being chained and all that. That's how we were sleeping. It was just exactly the same picture. It was terrible. Victoria Falls is very hot. Whenever 17 people are in that kind of a room, it just heats up.
NZ: Did you travel from Kariba all the way to Victoria Falls just to go and demonstrate against President Mugabe?
PM: Yes, just primarily for that.
NZ: Were you ever threatened by the authorities for staging a demonstration?
PM: Yes. They were like saying, why did you come here and not go and do your demonstration in Harare? I believe they were thinking that since the President was in Victoria Falls, they were going to be blamed for lack of security. They wanted the whole thing very, very clean. So when it happened, it really messed up their confidence because they thought that they had actually well enough security for the whole situation.
NZ: Was that your first time you have been taken into state custody?
PM: No, it was not. My first time was back then when I was detained for walking without an ID and the second time was when I was arrested after they suspected I stole a bicycle, which they later gave back to me. What happened was that I was riding at night when I felt that I should change my clothes and so I turned into a place where there was a tent and when I came out, they saw me and took me into custody for three hours thinking I had stolen the bicycle.
NZ: With your experience in the hands of the state so far, will you ever think of stopping your activism?
PM: No. I am not going to stop that because it has actually given me some understanding on what is really going on because I feel my being in prison in the first place was a violation of my rights. It was not constitutional. It was so much injustice against me. That will not stop me. In fact, I am even seeing more loopholes and more suffering which is going on. When I was in the cells, I actually met more people who are in there, according to me, for no reason at all just because somebody enjoys putting someone in cells. I actually met people who had been in the cells for three weeks just because they are coming from Zambia and Namibia to fend for their families.
NZ: What do you think about fellow church leaders who have kept away from condemning political injustices?
PM: It really boggles my mind when I hear men of God saying we are not supposed to be involved in that kind of thing. It really sends some shock waves through me and I am really surprised to say how can that be when we stand for the people? If people are undergoing injustice what do we do? We have got to come in and stand for them.
Right now (Itai) Dzamara is gone and nobody is saying anything about that. It did not make a lot of sense. As men of God, we have got to stand there and say these are our people including Zanu PF people; they are our sons and daughters spiritually. We need to speak to them and say 'sons and daughters, what you are doing is not right'.
NZ: How does your family feel about your activism?
PM: Well, I have a cousin of mine who has been standing by me so very much and understands the reasons as to why I am doing what I am doing. As for my wife, she is very much aware of what I am doing. First, my history of praying for Zimbabwe and then saying I am taking it up to another level. So she is very, very supportive of what I am doing but as a woman it has not come easy on her you know when I get arrested and all that.
NZ: So, are you home now?
I am still in Vic Falls and I won't travel until I appear in court because I don't have resources to be travelling between here and Kariba. I am currently looking for a place where I can put up during this period. Some good people are trying their best to find a place for me.
NZ: After what happened to Dzamara are you not afraid for your life?
PM: Well, I worried but I am inspired. Our liberation war heroes, including the president himself, braved a dangerous Smith regime and went to Mozambique to give us a free Zimbabwe. That's a good inspiration for all of us. We must stand up. Who knows maybe civil servants will not be paid again next month? Who will be the next Dzamara? Should we wait until things get that worse?