A pastor in Zimbabwe, Evan Mawarire, has been charged with attempting to overthrow the government after organizing a nationwide strike which shut the country down last week.
Mawrire’s supporters, who thronged the public gallery, laughed when the prosecutor announced the new charges which are more serious than the initial charge of inciting public violence which prompted his arrest on Tuesday.
The clergyman came to national prominence with a social media campaign called #ThisFlag in which he enjoins Zimbabweans to reclaim their flag by taking the government of long-running President Robert Mugabe to task on managing the country’s battered economy.
Many had answered Mawarire’s call on social media last week for a job boycott to protest dismal economic conditions. It was the largest shutdown in the country in nearly 10 years.
Water cannons and riot police surrounded the Harare Magistrates Court to maintain law and order during Mawarire’s court appearance, Washington Post writes.
But dozens of activists clad in Zimbabwe’s flag sang, chanted slogans and prayed outside the court.
Another boycott had been called for Wednesday, but wasn’t responded to enthusiastically as the government had issued a stern warning to protesters that “they would face the full wrath of the law.”
Protests and shutdowns have become frequent in the Southern African nation in recent times following biting economic hardship and crippling inflation.