Evan Mawarire has become a national hero but has said he must “rethink” his return to the country after Mugabe named him and questioned whether he is serving God.
A stay-at-home strike in July was backed by Mawarire, who sparked the #ThisFlag social media movement which has become one of the biggest anti-government protests in years.
He was subsequently arrested and charged with subversion, but was released to the cheers of hundreds gathered at the court after his lawyers successfully argued that the accusation had been added at the last minute and so did not allow him a fair trial.
Mawarire then travelled to South Africa, but said he was not abandoning Zimbabwe. Now, he has said he is heading to the US.
“I am going to the USA. I am meeting some citizens over there…and to take time to think what will be my next move,” the pastor said in a video message posted on Facebook.
“Our power is in our unity, our power is in the fact that each Zimbabwean has decided to rise up,” he added.
The 39-year-old evangelical minister called on Zimbabweans to stand up against “poor governance, corruption, theft of money and mis-governance”.
The 92-year-old president said last month that if people like Mawarire were unhappy with life in Zimbabwe they should move to “the countries of those of who are sponsoring them”.
He went on: “A man of religion will speak the biblical truth. 1 Corinthians what does it say? Love one another…So beware these men of cloth, not all of them are true preachers of the Bible. I don’t know whether they are serving God. They spell God in reverse.”
Naming the pastor for the first time, Mugabe added: “The Mawarires and those who believe in that way of living in our country, well, they are not part of us in thinking. They are not part of us as we try to live together.”
Mawarire responded by praising the movement he founded. “I saw thousands of people waiting for me when I was released, and this just proved that this movement is here to stay… The citizens of Zimbabwe have shaken the government in terms of showing that we can see what is being done and we are demanding things to change,” he said. “This movement is not housed in a building. It is an idea that is within Zimbabweans, and that is why people identify with it. For Zimbabweans, it’s personal and not about following an individual. This is about a better Zimbabwe that lives in the hearts of us all.”
Amnesty International has said that Mawarire is under threat in Zimbabwe.