6 Acquited; Trial of Williams and Mahlangu begins

WOZA members acquitted while Williams and Mahlangu appear on Trial 12 December 2011. For legal documents http://wozazimbabwe.org/?p=1023 SIX women were granted a discharge by Bulawayo Magistrate.

They were arrested on Wednesday 18 May 2011 and spent 6 days in police cells before being charged with contravening section 140 of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) Chapter 9:23, malicious damage to property. Magistrate Roselyn Dube on 9 December 2011 acquitted the six, they had faced a fine or imprisonment. The court victory was secured by the chief officer, Lizwe Jamela of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who defended the six members.

Public Prosecutor Jeremiah Mutsindikwa failed to prove that the six women had painted messages on a Bulawayo road. Some of the messages were: 'power to the poor people' and 'police stop abusing our rights', 'Yes to power, Pre-paid meters for all', and 'No to violence – Woza'.

The matter had over 10 sittings of the trial since August. It began with the hearing of defence witnesses and a staff member of the City Council, Engineer Douglas Lengama Ncube. Key evidence leading to the discharge was the testimony of the Engineer who told the court that he had signed his statement written by the police without scrutinising it in detail.

Another key moment was reached when the Investigating officer Moyo had to take the stand and explain how he arrested the women. He testified that he had not arrested the women but had just been assigned the case without his direct involvement. As a result of this statement, he refused to comment on the case merits.

On 12 December 2011, Jennifer Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu will face Kidnap and Theft charges in Tredgold Magistrates Court. The two were arrested on 21 September 2011, denied bail and sent to prison before the High Court granted them bail.

The state is set to nominate a special magistrate and prosecutor for the case. A Supreme Court ruling found that Williams and Mahlangu right to freedom of protest was obstructed by a 2008 arrest. As a result, no conviction for protest related charges can be successfully made against the two. Many police officers have threatened the two to fix them with criminal charges and therefore this case is viewed as an attempt to fix the duo with criminal charges.

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