A Zimbabwean pastor, who held up a placard with the words “Mr President, the people are suffering. Proverbs 21:13” during the Zanu PF party conference held at Victoria Falls in mid-December, has been arrested and charged with criminal nuisance.
Patrick Mugadza, 45, a pastor from Kariba, silently held up his sign amidst the crowds of delegates in the centre of the town. The passage of Scripture that Mugadza referred to on his board says, “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor, will also cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13).
Following his arrest, Mugadza’s lawyer Thulani Nkala said that his client was simply exercising his constitutional right to demonstrate, “Everyone has a right to demonstrate and present a petition. He was merely carrying a placard with no violence and didn’t even force members of the public to join him.”
Despite objections from the defence and an application for a refusal of reprimand which the magistrate dismissed, the pastor was released on $500 bail – a sum usually given to the most serious criminals in Zimbabwe, and one that was far beyond the reach of a pastor’s finances.
A trial date was set for 5 January, but was postponed to 1 February after all six police witnesses failed to attend court.
Mugadza is just one of over 100 people to have been arrested in the past decade for criticising Robert Mugabe and his regime. Mugadza is reported to have said that he has no regrets about speaking out against the Zimbabwean leader as “he is sinning against God”.
Zimbabwe is currently suffering the worst drought in living memory. One and a half million people are facing hunger as crops across the country wilt under scorching temperatures and low rainfall. The drought, caused by the El Niño weather pattern, has affected the entire region.