He led a popular uprising against Mugabe. Now he says life is more brutal than ever for Zimbabweans

Zimbabwean pastor and activist Evan Mawarire clutches his Bible after being arrested and sent to Harare's Magistrates Court.

(CNN)It's been just over two months since Zimbabwe's former President Robert Mugabe died, and almost two years since he was ousted from office, but some Zimbabweans say life is tougher than ever.

When Mugabe stepped down unexpectedly in 2017, after 37 years in power, there was widespread jubilation, but that quickly dissipated as it became clear that it was business as usual for the new government.
One of those who shared the initial sense of elation was Evan Mawarire, a pastor, activist and founder of the #ThisFlag movement. Mawarire gained prominence in 2016 when he draped himself in a Zimbabwean flag and railed against government corruption and lack of accountability in an online video.
    His protests became popular and caught the attention of the Mugabe regime who detained him for "inciting public violence." Mawarire was released a day later after mounting public pressure.
    "Seeing Robert Mugabe step down was unbelievable," said Mawarire. "The atmosphere was just euphoric. It was something none of us expected to see in our lifetime."
    "The expectation was that from here on truly things are going to get better because there's no way they can get worse. Robert Mugabe was the worst."

    Fierce crackdown

    However, in the two years since Mugabe's successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has been in power, conditions have deteriorated. Zimbabwe's economy has plummeted further with inflation now hovering around 300%.
    Add to that a fierce crackdown on any type of criticism of the government and the future of Zimbabwe looks bleak.
    "We're in a country where the basic freedoms that are provided for in the constitution for citizens are being blatantly violated. People are not allowed to speak freely, the amount of arrests that have taken place of people who have spoken out or against the government is shocking," said Mawarire.
    Mawarire claims that, "In just two years, Emmerson Mnangagwa has charged more people who have spoken out against the government than Robert Mugabe did in 37 years."
    CNN cannot independently verify those claims. We contacted Zimbabwe's information minister about Mawarire's claims -- but did not receive a response.

    A thorn in government's side

    Mawarire's popularity and calls for justice continue to make him a thorn in the government's side. An online video of him voicing his frustration during protests against a 130% fuel hike in January led to him being arrested and sent to jail once again.
    He, along with trade union leader, Peter Mutasa, were charged with attempting to overthrow the government and sent to the country's notorious Chikurubi maximum security prison.
    Mawarire was released on bail almost two weeks later.