Dozens set free in spectacular collapse of case against residents targeted over #shutdownzim2016

Protests as court acquits Chegutu quartet charged over road blockade

HARARE Magistrate Victoria Mashamba on Tuesday 07 March 2017 set free 65 residents of Epworth suburb, who had been on trial for allegedly participating in a wildcat protests held last year against police corruption and the government’s ban on the importation of goods from neighbouring countries.

Among those set free on Tuesday 07 March 2016 were nine juveniles namely Kupakwashe Mataka aged 17 years, Ronald Mbirimi aged18 years, Kadrick Mapfumo aged 16 years, Robert Zhinexs aged 17 years, Bernard Muvembi aged 19 years, Tatenda Mucheka aged 18 years, Kennedy Mupindu aged 19 years, Albert Chipfuwamiti aged 18 years and Takudzwa Tutai aged 17 years, who were targeted together with 56 Epworth residents when Zimbabwe Republic Police officers arrested them on 04 July 2016 and charged with public violence as defined in Section 36 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.

In court, prosecutors claimed that the 65 Epworth residents were engaged in public violence when they were arrested on 04 July 2016 between Mabvuku high-density suburb and Zimre Park medium density suburb and along the Harare-Mutare highway, where they allegedly disturbed the peace, security or order of the public by violently harassing motorists and commuters by barricading the road with stones and burning tyres.

Prosecutors charged that through their acts, some motorists and commuters were forced to disembark from the vehicles they were travelling in and the residents also went on to damage a police vehicle.

But on Tuesday 07 March 2017, Magistrate Mashamba set free the Epworth residents after she agreed with defence lawyer Obey Shava of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) who argued that his clients were not properly before the court as there were no warned and cautioned statements recorded from some of them upon their arrest. Out of 65, ZRP officers only recorded warned and cautioned statements from 23 residents leaving 42 residents with no warned and cautioned statements recorded from them.

Magistrate Mashamba also agreed with Shava who had argued that what the State had done was unprocedural and ordered prosecutors to put their house in order in respect of availability of witnesses and presenting essential paperwork to the court.

The case was full of drama after Magistrate Mashamba found one of the State witnesses, Tendai Chimboza, who is a ZRP officer, to be in wilful default after he failed to appear in court to give evidence. Chimboza ended up in custody after he was fined $20, failure of which he risks serving 20 days in prison.

Meanwhile, in Chegutu in Mashonaland West province, Magistrate Felix Chauromwe acquitted three opposition political party supporters, who had been on trial for allegedly blocking roads during an anti-government protest staged in September last year.

The three opposition political party supporters namely Tafadzwa Ziyamba, aged 28 and who is a self-employed motor-vehicle mechanic, Gift Konjana, aged 46 and who is an unemployed MDC-T party chairperson for Chegutu West constituency and Isaac Stani Shumba, aged 43, who is also unemployed and is the Zimbabwe People First political party chairperson for Chegutu, were found not guilty on Friday 03 March 2017 and acquitted after the Magistrate ruled that the State had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the trio had committed an offence.

The trio, who were represented by Sharon Hofisi of ZLHR, had been on trial after they were arrested together with 60 year-old Patrick Tembo and charged with contravening Section 38 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after they allegedly obstructed or endangered the free movement of persons or traffic by blocking roads during an anti-government protest staged last year.

On Tuesday 07 March 2017, the State also withdrew charges before plea against Tembo, who was also represented by Hofisi and who is an MDC-T party councillor for Ward 12 Chegutu Urban for want of evidence.

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