‘Video watching’ activists apply for acquittal

A group of Zimbabwean activists arrested almost a year ago for watching footage of the people’s revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have applied for their case to be acquitted.


The six, including former MDC-T MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, were among more than 40 people arrested after watching the video at an academic meeting, which was raided by police. After their initial arrest some in the group, including Gwisai, were tortured in police cells and kept in solitary confinement at Chikurubi maximum security prison in Harare for weeks.

The whole group was charged with treason and originally held for more than two weeks. Eventually 39 of the activists were released without charge after an international campaign calling for their freedom.

However Gwisai, Hopewell Gumbo, Antonater Choto, Welcome Zimuto, Eddson Chakuma and Tatenda Mombeyarara were still facing treason charges until mid March last year, with the state insisting they were either directly linked to the ‘illegal’ gathering or were speakers at the meeting. The treason charges were then altered in May to a charge of ‘subverting a constitutional government’.

Last July the state dropped the ‘subverting a constitutional government’ charge, but brought another charge and four alternative charges instead. They group is now being charged with ‘conspiracy to commit public violence’, with alternative charges including ‘inciting public violence’, ‘participating in a meeting with a view to inciting public violence’, and ‘breach of peace’.

The case has dragged on since then, and the defence was waiting for the state to finish its case before applying for acquittal on Thursday. Magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini set February 15 as the date for the ruling on the application.

One of the activists, Hopewell Gumbo told SW Radio Africa on Friday that there has been no significant evidence in the State’s case.

“All things being equal and given what has transpired during the trial, we are confident the application for acquittal will be favourable,” Gumbo said.

He meanwhile expressed concern that the arrests of activists and MDC members on spurious and often false charges has continued, saying “people must expect more of this while ZANU PF prepares for elections.”

He added however that this tactic of arresting the opposition or anyone who is vocal “only drains resources.”

“Look at me. I am not deterred from fighting for a better Zimbabwe. It was a traumatic experience. But I am more determined to fight on,” Gumbo said. – SW Radio Africa News

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