Zimbabwean 'flag abusers' face jail

A Zimbabwean 'myflag' activist draped in their national flag gather in Pretoria on 14 July 2016 prior to a march to the Zimbabwean embassy. Image copyright AFP
Image caption The #ThisFlag movement began in April and is calling for change in Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans risk imprisonment for abusing the national flag, the authorities have warned in the wake of anti-government protests.

Those who bring it into disrepute face a $200 (£154) fine and/or six months in jail, the justice ministry said.

Nobody is allowed to sell the flag without prior permission from the ministry, its statement added.

The flag is being used as a symbol of the calls for change by protesters under the #ThisFlag movement.

It was started in April by a pastor who wrapped a flag around his neck and in a video posted on Facebook calling for Zimbabweans who were fed up with the perceived mismanagement of the country to stand up for themselves.

Evan Mawarire's social-media movement backed a stay-away campaign in July, the biggest strike action since 2005.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Evan Mawarire has used videos on social media to drum up support

He was accused of attempting to overthrow the government but a court dismissed the charges.

At his court appearance he was draped in the flag, as were many of his supporters.

He since fled the country and is currently in New York where he posted a video on Facebook on Tuesday, again wearing the flag around his neck, protesting outside the UN headquarters. President Robert Mugabe is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

'Total insanity'

Over the last month there have been several anti-government protests with people wrapping themselves in the Zimbabwe flag - and the police have now banned marches in the capital, Harare, until mid-October.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Demonstrators in August were protesting against a plan to introduce bond as an unofficial currency

"Members of the public who engage in any action or activity, which involves the manufacture, sale or use of the national flag in contravention of the law are therefore warned that they are liable to prosecution and are liable to imprisonment if they are found guilty by a court of law," Justice Ministry official Virginia Mabiza said in a statement.

Promise Mkwananzi, the leader of young activists who protest under the banner Tajamuka, meaning "we strongly disagree", dismissed the warning.

"It is total insanity that government should ban citizens from using their own flag. We are going to continue to make use of our flag. It is our identity," he told the Reuters news agency.

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