Protest pastor Evan Mawarire has been taken in for questioning by police after posting a video to Facebook criticising Zimbabwe's worsening economic crisis, his #ThisFlag movement said on Sunday.
Watchdog @ZimMediaReview posted a short video clip to Twitter of Mawarire addressing his congregation in church in Harare on Sunday morning. Mawarire said that the police outside were waiting for him to finish his sermon.
"As we are here this morning, I've just been informed that the police are outside. It's important for you as the church to know this. I'm told that the police are outside waiting for me. I'm not sure what the story is or what the situation is," he said, as the church band played on.
'Pray for me'
"I need you to continue to pray for me, pray for yourselves, pray for our nation. Our country needs God. I am an innocent man who has not broken the law or done anything that is wrong."
ThisFlag, the online movement the pastor launched in April 2016, confirmed his arrest in a tweet, drawing angry reaction online. Said @ThisFlag1980: "#CitizensAlert Pastor Evan has been arrested for live Broadcast last night. On route to Central Police with ZLHR (Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights') Harrison Nkomo with him."
Due in court
Mawarire was due to appear in court on Monday to face trial on old charges (they date back to last year) of subverting President Robert Mugabe's government. He fled Zimbabwe in July 2017 after being arrested and then freed on charges of inciting violence.
Zimbabwe's economic situation took a sharp turn for the worse this week, with worsening foreign currency shortages, panic-buying on Saturday and the resurgence of fuel queues.
'The shortages have begun to happen'
In his video clip on Saturday, Mawarire said: "Things in Zimbabwe have become very urgent."
He added: "We've begun to experience what we experienced in 2008. The shortages have begun to happen. In a normal nation people shouldn't be panicking at all. We're supposed to be at peace in our country," he said.
Ironically, Mawarire urged the police not to arrest him during the hour-long video post. He said he had the constitutional right to address citizens over the economic crisis.
Central bank chief John Mangudya has tried to reassure Zimbabweans that the country is not facing a crisis similar to the one in 2007-2008 that wiped out people's savings and triggered chronic shortages of everything from food to fuel. He told the state-run Sunday Mail that the bank is allocating up to 45 million US dollars per week to pay for imports of basic and essential commodities, including fuel and power. Cash is desperately short in supermarkets -- but black market sellers are reported to be selling "bricks" of cash in the popular Copacabana bus terminus, just like they did 10 years ago.
.@PastorEvanLive's words to his church just before his arrest this morning.
Last night, he called for action against the economic crisis. pic.twitter.com/MAfaJb0tps