#ThisFlag frontman, Evan Mawarire has hit back at President Robert Mugabe’s call for him to leave Zimbabwe and stay with his alleged foreign sponsors, saying it only showed that his Zanu PF government was out of touch with reality.

Mugabe on Tuesday blasted the evangelist, who has led a social media campaign to force his government to address the deteriorating economic situation in the country, labelling him a dog worshipper and advising him to stay out of the country with his “foreign sponsors”.

But Mawarire, who is in South Africa after his arrest last week on charges of inciting public violence, told a South African television station, eNCA, that Zimbabweans loved their country and Mugabe’s statement exhibited his ignorance of the realities citizens were facing.

“I have said this before and I am saying this again now, that the statement (Mugabe’s statement) is a sign that our own government is far removed from the reality of everyday citizens in Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Nothing hurts me more than hearing a statement like that because nobody loves Zimbabwe more than a Zimbabwean and it has been proved over a couple of weeks by the millions across the world and in our own country, who have stood up to say we need a better Zimbabwe.

“I don’t need anyone from outside Zimbabwe to come and give me money or tell me in my ear that I am failing to raise funds to put my kids through school or that I can’t get access to health or that I am hungry. I know that it is a reality that I am living with.”

Mawarire said his #ThisFlag campaign was not a regime change agenda, but a call to the political leadership of the country to address the challenges the country was facing that include a dying economy, endemic corruption and poor service delivery, among others.

He, however, was quick to point out that he believed Zanu PF was no longer the party to solve those worsening crises, as they had proved their ineptitude beyond doubt.

“I think they (Zanu PF) have proved to us over the last couple of years that it will be a difficult task for them to deliver those things,” Mawarire said.

“And so, what I am advocating for as a young person, and am doing it so openly, is the fact that it is time for new ideas to enter the political fray. There is no doubt that we have recycled the same people with the same ideas and it is time for us to think differently.”

He said the current leadership in both Zanu PF and opposition political parties should be content with taking up advisory roles and realise that it was time for a new generation to build the Zimbabwe they dreamt of.

Mawarire said it was time for the citizens of Zimbabwe, particularly the youth, to peacefully take charge of their destiny and make political leaders account for their actions.

Most Zimbabweans that are working outside the country, Mawarire said, were tired of being humiliated and want to return to their motherland.

“What we are advocating for, more than anything else, is a government that respects the dignity of its citizens,” he said, adding that his campaign would never be hijacked by politicians because it belonged to the people.