For just under a year, the six intermittently attended court with a highly suspicious star witness appearing for the state. The defendants were initially charged with treason which the state failed to sustain as trial commenced. Apart from video evidence the police who raided the meeting extracted on the fateful February 19, the state also relied on a witness whose identity was contested by the defendants. Jonathan Shoko, the CIO agent whose testimony the state heavily relied on was unmasked as being also known as Rodwell Chitiyo. The defendants did the best they could to convince the magistrate of the unsuitability of the witness and his unreliability courtesy of his multiple identities. Surprisingly, after nearly eight months of being in the doc charged with conspiracy to cause or incite public violence, the six were found guilty, fined and given four hundred and twenty hours of community service.
The judgement was as surprising as it was puzzling because of the reasoning. The videos of the Egypt uprising had gone viral on the internet and were part of newscasts even on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation, the local monopoly on electronic news casting in Zimbabwe. Prosecutors argued that because the participants at the meeting had democratically aired their views in a closed space about the inclusive government and about President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, they deserved the maximum sentence for pointing out floors in the way Zimbabwe was currently being governed. Instead of relying on the law as a legal practitioner, the prosecutor sort to convince the Magistrate using the Bible during mitigation. Indeed, in as much as the legal profession borrows from other jurisdictions, the bible was an unusual jurisdiction to borrow from.
The justice system continues to be a focal point in Zimbabwe’s search for a democratic alternative. Justice has to be done and has to be seen to be done by those who go to it for reprieve. Unfortunately, autocracy and oppression have dictated and directed the misuse and abuse of the justice system to stall progress and change. The nation continue to wait and hope that the judiciary remains impartial and honourable in its conduct. The separation of powers entails that the judiciary must always remain independent of the other arms of the state that is the legislature and the executive. The Zimbabwean situation has left many to believe that the judiciary has long since lost its independence amid fears that presiding officers have become full time activists vigorously pursuing the agenda of a certain political party in courts.