As Pastor Evan returns to Zimbabwe after a 6 month haitus, it is clear that he will, for a while, become the new distraction topic for the ruling party and government. A quick visit to the various news outlets such as the BBC and 263 Chat and social media sites such as FB and Twitter and it is clear to see that government have wasted no time in making him their whipping boy and the Pastor is back in handcuffs.
The question is what does the return of Evan actually mean, and why now? What does he hope to achieve? Some misguided citizens felt abandoned by his abrupt departure in 2016 to South Africa and the USA. With some even going so far as to disavow him. Some are now hoping that he will get political as was suggested in one online newspaper. Still others are trying to put him on the messiah pedestal. My own view about his departure and return is best encapsulated the post by Masofa Panze. Evan and I owe each other nothing except to keep fighting for Zimbabwe in our own way.
In a bout of idle speculation maybe Evan is back to set up or join some political party what would that mean?
With less than 18 months to the general election even the thought of setting up a political party at this stage, that can capture a sizeable proportion of the urban and rural constituency seems like a herculean task.
On the positive side in the urban areas the use of social media and e-communication would work greatly in the favour of the pastor. The real challenge is the rural penetration, traditionally these are ZANU strongholds, that can only be broken with robust and slippery manoeuvring in order to outfox the ZANU apparatchik. The majority of the current crop of political parties unfortunately were born out of ZANU and have difficulty thinking strategically outside the box.
Lest we forget, before anything can get started the good Pastor has to beat the charge for which he was arrested. The charge against him is for breaching Section 22 of the Criminal Code which covers attempts to subvert a Constitutional government. The government could let this case drag on for months if they get a compliant judge or magistrate, thus draining political focus and resources.
Alternatively Evan could use his social media status to provide a much needed reboot to the #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka movements. To even the casual observer it is clear that when Evan left, it was like a light went out of the movements. Patson, Zvorwadza and others such as Linda and Fadzayi, tried to keep the fires of rebellion burning brightly but their impact was severely curtailed.
The opposition parties failed to rally effectively to the #ThisFlag movement. As party leaders many of them appeared to empathise with the sentiments of the #ThisFlag movement. However none of the significant opposition parties came in all out support of the citizens uprising – they appeared to be hedging at best, at worst it was a case of ego’s getting in the way – result – a failure to capitalise on the a golden opportunity presented by the movement and its charismatic leaders.
As I type this post, 36 hours after his arrest, I note with dismay that none of the opposition parties as organisations (not just members or leaders) have come out as a body politic to protest in the strongest terms against the arrest and detainment of Evan. Only quiet words have been spoken.
Perhaps Evan has returned to help forge a a proper functional coalition between the majority of opposition parties. To help give a proper steer on the direction of travel. To be the voice of reason and moderation. In other words to become a catalyst of change. This I think would be the best place for him. Politics is a dirty and poisonous game at best, deadly at worst and its power can easily corrupt. As a template I look to Desmond Tutu a man with no overt political affiliations during the South African struggle but very much on point as to the South Africa he wanted.
Whatever the reason for his return, which to us the observers was as abrupt as his departure. There is no doubt that the next few months of Zimbabwean politics are not going to be boring. The question is are Zimbabweans still ready to listen to the message he will be selling. In 2016 we questioned if Zimbabweans as individuals were ready to make a political step change. The answer is clearly more work needs to be done.
Yes Evan has returned, but like Moses he has returned to find the people have regressed and again allow themselves to be cowed. I am sure when he boarded that flight in America to return to Zimbabwe he knew what he was coming back to. The fact is that he came nonetheless in my book this shows the content of his character, which is more than what can be said about his detractors.