MDC-T youths arrested over Zec demo released on bail

Gweru - Six MDC-T youths and a Form 3 secondary school minor who were arrested on Saturday over allegations of staging a demonstration against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission have been released on bail by Gweru provincial magistrate Phathekile Msipa.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairperson, Rita Makarau.

The six- Wonderful Marange, Taurai Mugaga, Clifford Mulingwa, Mthulisi Noko, Dhava Mangena and Faith Chuma were released on $100 bail while the minor was released into the custody of her mother, Eunice Mahlebo.

During the bail application, the sate had agreed that the accused be given free bail.

According to the state represented by prosecutor Aleck Marimo, the seven gathered at Midlands Hotel on 22 July 2017 at around 11am and started a march along Robert Mugabe way. On the way, the state alleges the seven started singing songs that denounce President Mugabe, ZEC and its chairperson Rita Makarau and Zanu (PF). The state further say the the accused persons raised placards that read “Mugabe is too old and useless;” “Makarau must go” and “We demand free and fair elections”.

They were formally charged for contravening section 37 of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, that is participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breach of peace and bigotry but they did not plead.

Claudius Makwarimba of Dube and Gundu Legal Practitioners who is representing the accused told The Zimbabwean in an interview that the state’s case is too weak and he prays that his clients are acquitted.

“Firstly, two of my clients were arrested before the 11am period that the state say is the time they gathered at Midlands Hotel. The others were also picked up way after the demonstration had ended when they were just walking in town. The worst case is of a Form 3 minor who was picked up near Kudzanayi bus terminus while just walking to the market,” he said.

The lawyer added that the youths were arrested on the mere fact that they are known MDC-T members while the minor was caught up in the melee.

Makwarimba also expressed shock as to why the accused persons were arrested elsewhere and not in places where they are said to have committed the crime.

The MDC-T youths in the Midlands capital who staged the said demonstration on Saturday took to the streets to protest against Zec’s reluctance to implement electoral reforms before next year’s elections.The youths also demanded transparency in the biometric voter registration (BVR) system, as well as an increase of polling stations in major cities.

This came as 15 opposition parties under the Zimbabwe National Electoral Reform Agenda (Zinera) platform on Friday resolved to take to the streets to force Zec to give in to their demands for electoral reforms.
Part of the demands included the scrapping the proof of residence requirement and the need for full disclosure of details surrounding the server that would be used for storage of election data.

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