LONDON – A Zimbabwean activist accused of telling his followers to carry out terrorist attacks against his country’s regime has told the court that he is ‘afraid to kill a fly’.
According to the Daily Mail, William Chinyanga, 51, is accused of encouraging bombings in the south-east African country in four speeches to 7,000 followers on social media over two days in December 2019.
On December 1, 2019, Chinyanga, of Archway, north London, allegedly told his followers to ‘open gunfire on a gathering of people’ and use ‘gorrila [sic] warfare’.
He is understood to be a campaigner for MDC-alliance, a multi-party political bloc that opposes Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF government in Zimbabwe.
The Old Bailey was told he has been charged with four counts of encouraging terrorism, which he denies.
Chinyanga told the jury that his father was beaten by Zanu PF militants, and he fled Zimbabwe for the UK in 2000 after being threatened by police officers.
On Friday, Chinyanga told the court that he is ‘against guns’ and said he is ‘scared to kill a fly’, insisting that his comments were just a ‘dark joke’.
Assisted by a Shona interpreter, he quoted Mohatma Gandhi and cited George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm as an example of how Zimbabwean politics worked under Mugabe.
He said: ‘These are corrupt people, they are criminals. It made me feel this needed to change.’
When asked what he meant by ‘Put on a hood at night, go and bomb, go and do whatever you want to do’, Chinyanga claimed it was ‘a dark joke’.
He added: ‘I’m an attention seeker, I want the British government to hear my voice, to hear my cry. There is nothing there.
‘I’m against guns, I’m against soldiers, what is the point of a government with soldiers, what is the point of fighting in the 21st century?
‘It is about ideas, which are real and direct. I’m scared to kill a fly, even a spider in my home! Would I kill a human, never!
‘I’m not a person who wants people to be killed.’
To which Clare Wade QC asked him: ‘What about the part where you say “If you see where a policeman lives, beat him up?’
Chinyanga, of Archway, north London, allegedly told his followers to ‘open gunfire on a gathering of people’ and use ‘gorrila [sic] warfare’, The Old Bailey (pictured) heard
And he responded: ‘If police are attacking you, if the rioters are attacking you, then you can do that to defend yourself.
‘They love to kill, they are monsters.’
When asked about his comments on bombing, Chinyanga claimed he was jut ‘looking for attention.
He said: ‘How, how, how? It would be so expensive, the rockets. It was just a dark joke. I’m just looking for attention.’
The teacher had been involved in political organising in the Zimbabwean capital Harare after graduating from the University of Havana in the mid-1990s.
The activist continued to be involved in politics after arriving in the UK, but was asked to leave the Zimbabwe African People’s Union political party in 2009 after he formed a government-in-exile with himself as president.
Prosecutor Sean Larkin QC had earlier told the court: ‘He is 51 years old, born in Zimbabwe, sought asylum in 2009 and was granted indefinite leave to remain.
‘There is no dispute he is an opponent of the Zimbabwean government.
‘He had a Facebook account and over a two-day period, the 1st and 2nd December 2019 he livestreamed four speeches to his Facebook followers, over 7000 followers.
‘He speaks in a mixture of English and Shona and he speaks against the Zimbabwean government.
‘The prosecution case is that he went far legitimate complaint or protest against the government and committed the offences with which which he is charged.’
Jurors were told that Chinyanga was a ‘long-standing opponent of the Zimbabwean regime’, although only four of the speeches he posted were the subject of charges.
Mr Larkin added: ‘In the course of these speeches he encouraged his followers to bomb the headquarters of Zanu-PF, bomb the motorcade of the leader of the Zanu-PF, bomb petrol stations, it seems with a view to disrupt the economy and bring revolution, attack police officers in their cars, attack soldiers.
‘He encouraged his followers to share the speeches with others.’
Chinyanga is understood to be a campaigner for MDC-alliance, a multi-party political bloc that opposes Emmerson Mnangagwa’s (pictured in 2019) ruling Zanu-PF government in Zimbabwe
After police became aware of a speech he posted titled ‘The strategy to remove zanu.pf. Announcement’, Chinyanga was interviewed in February 2020.
He admitted posting the speech and wanting to overthrow his country’s government and was released under investigation, during the course of which officers found his other speeches.
In a speech called ‘Anyone in his right mind to open gunfire on a gathering of people its terrorism’ he called what happened in Zimbabwe ‘a disgrace’, the court was told.
Mr Larkin said: ‘What appears to have happened is that he would describe seeing some footage of police in Zimbabwe shooting a protesters, apparently in a tree planting matter.
‘That is what triggered is speeches.’
Jurors were told that the Zanu-PF party had been ruling the Southeast African country since its independence in 1980, for most of that time under Robert Mugabe.
In 2017 he was ousted in a coup by his own party and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Chinyanga denies four counts of encouraging terrorism.
The trial continues.