A Christian pastor in Zimbabwe is achieving hero cult status on social media and among the local populace after touchlighting a populist campaign to do something about the country's economic crisis.
Evan Mawarire was released from prison by Harare magistrates this week and has temporarily left the country on a prior engagement after learning that "groups of men" were hunting him.
He had been facing charges by public prosecutors of inciting public violence, subversion and even trying to overthrow President Mugabe after his peaceful #thisflag campaign against corruption and economic mismanagement took off on social media. The magistrates threw out the charges and released them.
The plight of Zimbabwe has attracted support from church leaders worldwide. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, currently does not wear a clerical collar and has said he will not wear it again while Mugabe is in power.
Pastor Mawarire wrote on Facebook after his release: "Fellow Citizens thank you for your concern for my safety and whereabouts. I am well and safe taking some time to recuperate.
"Unfortunately i have been unable to communicate via my phone as usual because the Police are still in possession of my phone.
"I am also reliably informed that groups of men have been apparently looking for me at my home and office. Currently I have travelled to attend to a previously arranged engagement outside the country and will be back home to my family and work soon and indeed all the other significant movements in Zimbabwe are not about one person. Take ownership of this work. I take my hat off for all your amazing efforts in building a better Zimbabwe.
"We will never be silenced. HATICHADA & HATICHATYA, ASISAFUNI njalo ASISESABI, FED UP & NOT AFRAID."
He also tweeted:
Im reliably informed that 'groups of men' are looking for me at home and office, we don't know who they are. Will update as we get more info— #ThisFlag E Mawarire (@PastorEvanLive) July 15, 2016
Thank u 4 your concern 4 my safety. Police still have my phone. Im traveling on prearranged work, can't wait to be back home #ThisFlag— #ThisFlag E Mawarire (@PastorEvanLive) July 15, 2016
According to BBC Africa, in spite of his lack of political experiece his campaign has won over Zimbabweans because they are fed up with so many existing politicians.
One UK Zimbabwean tweeted an image of Mawarire as superhero "Captain Zimbabwe".
"I did it with the younger generation of Zimbabwe in mind who might not understand what the struggle in Zimbabwe is about," Tawada Sibotshiwe told the BBC after sharing the picture on Twitter. "I did it so they can visualise the man who has inspired Zimbabweans to seek dialogue with their government in a peaceful manner."
I Present To You Captain Zimbabwe
Mawarire told Zimbabwe Independent that Mugabe had once been his hero.
"It's 23 years now since I met him. He was my hero then. Today I look back and say: 'What changed?' Either I grew up or he messed up big time for sure."
In a recent statement on the economic crisis, Zimbabwe's church leaders wrote that they were "concerned and alarmed" by the unfortunate unfolding events in their beloved country and saddened by the political, social and economic meltdown which has caused untold suffering of the masses.
"We are inspired by our call and mandate given to us by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to prophetically declare the Word of God and work for the common good for our communities," they said. "As Church and community leaders, we condemn brutality by the law enforcement agencies on citizens. We implore the Government to redirect the law enforcement agencies to uphold their constitutional role of protecting citizens instead of brutalizing them. The citizens' constitutional right to demonstrate and protest must be protected. In exercising this right, we implore citizens to always remain peaceful in their demonstrations."