HARARE - Zimbabwean Pastor Evan Mawarire was a vocal critic of former President Robert Mugabe. Now he has decided to run in local government elections this year and possibly land the job of mayor of Zimbabwe's biggest city.
From pulpit to politics. Pastor Evan Mawarire is wading into the electoral fray in Zimbabwe.
He and other independent candidates have joined forces to run for local government posts in the coming elections. They call their coalition the People's Own Voice.
Mawarire has his eye on the mayor's spot in Harare should he win local government elections.
"Up to today, we still deliver dangerous and very dirty water to the residents of Harare," he said. "We have potholes, our road network is completely dysfunctional, completely dilapidated and needs to be revived again. We have issues that have to do with refuse collection, we still don't collect refuse for our people and that attracts all sorts of diseases. Those are things that my generation feels urgently [need attention]."
Mawarire rose to prominence in 2016 as the activist behind the #ThisFlag movement that organized protests against rights abuses by the government and former President Mugabe's handling of the ailing economy.
He was jailed several times. He was later acquitted on some charges of subversion, while others are still pending in court.
The polls expected this July and August will be the country's first without Mugabe, who resigned under military pressure last year.
Analysts say Mawarire's entry into politics could spell trouble for the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC has struggled with internal divisions following the recent death of founder Morgan Tsvangirai.
Word is that the MDC has already reached out Mawarire for talks, though VOA could not confirm that information.
Sekai Holland, a former senior member of the MDC, welcomed Mawarire to politics. She did not indicate where her allegiances now lie.
"The effort that pastor Mawarire is launching with his colleagues, is very significant," he said. "It's middle-class African kids whose absence from politics has caused many problems. Their coming in strengthens the processes of development, and it is important that they themselves understand that they are part of the fabric, and not an independent formation. So they should dialogue with everybody."
Last year, Kenya saw a surge in the number of independent candidates in its nationwide elections. Among them was the activist Boniface Mwangi who ran for parliament. He was in Harare for the launch of Mawarire's movement.
"It is important because independent candidates do not carry any baggage, but they have a voice because they want to reclaim their country," she said. "So it is very commendable that people have come together. The other thing is that when they're independent, they do not support any side, especially presidential elections, which means they are able to get both votes from Chamisa and 'Crocodile' voters."
He is referring to the two expected frontrunners in the coming presidential race.
Current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, or the "Crocodile" as he is known, will carry the mantle of the ruling ZANU-PF party.The MDC is expected to put forward its acting leader, Nelson Chamisa.