Human rights lawyer Douglas Coltart, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Secretary-General Robson Chere, Jessica Drury, Munyaradzi Ndawana and Precious Ndlovu appeared at Rotten Row Magistrates Court before Magistrate Usheunesu Matova for commencement of their trial on charges of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Prosecutors claimed that Coltart aged 28, Chere aged 35 years old, Drury aged 33 years old, Ndawana aged 32 years old and Ndlovu aged 32 years old, plotted a rebellion by gathering unlawfully at Zambezi Roots Lodge in Harare’s Greystone Park suburb on 27 April 2019, where they held a training workshop to strategise on ways of “spearheading a host of civil disobedience in Zimbabwe.”
The state charged that some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers who arrested Coltart, Chere, Drury, Ndawana and Ndlovu recovered some material which were being used during the alleged training and which included a book written “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” written by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, five paper sheets with various messages, some crayons, assorted pens, a cup, point markers and sticky notes among other materials.
However, their trial could not commence after their lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, protested against the state’s failure to furnish her clients with some relevant state papers and some exhibits relevant to their case.
Mtetwa also told Magistrate Matova that some of her clients were tortured by some state security agents who apprehended and detained them while the network at her law firm, Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners, where Coltart works was tempered with after police officers confiscated a laptop belonging to the budding human rights lawyer.
Magistrate Matova ordered the state to carry out a probe into complaints filed by Mtetwa and postponed the matter to 6 April 2020 for commencement of trial.