Zimbabwe native who survived torture explains why the Jan. 6 hearings are vitally important to democracy

Zimbabwe native who survived torture explains why the Jan. 6 hearings are vitally important to democracy
Evan Mawarire in May 2017 (Wikimedia Commons).

It can be highly informative to hear what immigrants from other countries have to say about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection, and the insights they bring to the table. Some of them have first-hand experience with authoritarians and despots, and they know that authoritarianism and coup attempts are not to be taken lightly.

Evan Mawarire, a pastor who is originally from Zimbabwe and now lives in the United States —where he is working at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore — takes a look at the January 6 committee’s hearings in an op-ed published by the Washington Post on June 14. And Mawarire, drawing on his own experiences back in Zimbabwe, explains why the hearings are vitally important.

“In 2008, the sitting president of my country, Zimbabwe, lost his bid for reelection but simply refused to leave office,” Mawarire recalls. “Robert Mugabe, the dictator who went on to rule Zimbabwe for a total of 37 years, mobilized his party thugs to brutalize those who voted against him and proceeded to claim the presidency.”

Mawarire, who serves as director of education for the Renew Democracy Initiative, continues, “My countrymen and I watched helplessly as African leaders rewarded Mugabe by brokering a supposed shared-power deal that gave him the immense powers of the presidency and awarded a token, ceremonial prime minister role to Morgan Tsvangirai, who had actually won the election. Tsvangirai died in 2018, Mugabe the following year.”

The pastor goes on to applaud the January 6 committee’s series of public hearings, which commenced on Thursday night, June 9 and continued with additional testimony on Monday, June 13.

“As members of the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol hold televised hearings,” Mawarire observes, “it might be easy for many people to ignore the proceedings, chalking them up to Washington infighting. That’s understandable — millions of Americans are dealing with more immediate, pressing concerns, such as spiking inflation and chronic gun violence.”

Mawarire continues, “But the hearings represent much more than just the political jockeying that Americans have come to expect from Washington. These proceedings, in particular their focus on the role played by then-President Donald Trump on that terrible day, represent the very thing that Zimbabweans never had with Mugabe: accountability. These hearings seek to hold those people accountable who would have taken America down a path that I know all too well.”

The January 6 hearings, according to Mawarire, are not only important to the U.S., but to other countries as well.

“The failure of democracy in our own countries helps us understand that a history of success shouldn’t make anyone complacent,” Mawarire explains. “All it takes for this tradition to crumble is for one leader or group to seize the reins of power and refuse to move on. The January 6 hearings underline the difference between the United States and countries where sham elections make a mockery of democratic values.”

Mawarire adds, “What might not be obvious to everyday citizens is that the hearings are a testament to the rule of law. The stakes are high: Not only will the country as a whole see whether the wrongdoers of January 6 are held accountable, but the world will also bear witness. Authoritarian governments that defy accountability for their anti-democratic actions — and long to see U.S. leaders do the same — are no doubt taking notice of how the hearings unfold.”

Mawarire’s experiences back in Zimbabwe, he notes, show why the January 6 committee’s hearings merit attention.

“Six years ago, when I launched the #ThisFlag citizens’ movement in Zimbabwe seeking to end Mugabe’s corrupt rule, our goal was to hold the country’s leaders accountable,” Mawarire writes. “Instead, I was jailed and tortured for my efforts. I moved to the United States in 2020 after escaping Zimbabwe, which remains a repressive state in the post-Mugabe era, and I am pleased to live in a country where the citizens enjoy collective rights to demand answers and justice from those in power.”

CNN’s Ana Navarro, a Never Trump conservative who grew up in Nicaragua, is another immigrant who has been praising the January 6 committee’s work. During a June 10 broadcast of ABC’s “The View,” Navarro slammed former President Donald Trump and his apologists, saying, ““History will not whitewash or erase what happened on January 6. Donald Trump, no matter how much people try to change the narrative, is going to go down in the annals of American history with the names of Benedict Arnold and Richard Nixon. He is a traitor.”

Navarro has had a lot to say about the hearings on Twitter:

Mawarire wraps up his op-ed by warning that the United States’ checks and balances need to be protected — not undermined.

“In my home country, the judiciary and parliament did nothing as Mugabe destroyed our institutions and what was left of our democracy,” Mawarire writes. “I’ve seen this happen once; I couldn’t bear to watch it happen again.”


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