Reprieve as Zim court overturns convinction of residents fined for violating national lockdown regulations

While seeking to purchase medication

A ZIMBABWEAN court has overturned the conviction of two Mutare
residents after they successfully challenged the decision by some
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members to order them to pay RTGS$1 000
as fine for unnecessary movement during the national lockdown period.Precious and Privilege Gwatidzo, who are twin sisters and based in
Mutare recently petitioned the Mutare Magistrates Court seeking an
order to set aside their conviction and to be refunded the fine which
they paid to ZRP on 12 April 2020 after they were arrested and charged
for unnecessary movement during national lockdown period as defined in
section 4(1)(a) of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 Public Health
(COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown)
Order, 2020.

Precious and Privilege, who are residents of Dangamvura high-density
suburb in Mutare, were arrested on 12 April 2020 after they left their
home with the intention to purchase some prescribed medication at a
pharmacy for their grandmother, who is chronically ill.

Although Precious and Privilege had in their possession a supporting
letter from their local Councillor confirming that they had an ailing
member of the family who needed urgent medication, the ZRP members at
Dangamvura Police Station could not entertain their request and
proceeded to arrest and detain them overnight without pressing a
charge against them.

The twin sisters were only advised of the charge the following day, it
being alleged that they contravened section 4(1)(a) of Statutory
Instrument 83 of 2020 Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment
and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order, 2020, which prohibited
unnecessary movement of people during the national lockdown imposed by
government in March in a bid to combat the spread of coronavirus.

While in police detention, Precious and Privilege were denied access
to sanitary wear and were only released from custody after paying a
fine of RTGS$500 each.

With the assistance of human rights lawyer Moses Chikomo of Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights, Precious and Privilege wrote a letter of
complaint to the Officer in Charge of Dangamvura Police Station
registering their displeasure in the manner in which the law
enforcement agents had conducted themselves after apprehending them.

The twin sisters also challenged their conviction and the imposition
of fines against them by ZRP members and this was granted by
Magistrate Sheila Nazombe.

In her ruling, Magistrate Nazombe stated that she was satisfied that
the plea of guilty entered by Precious and Privilege when they were
arrested in April was equivocal.

The Magistrate ordered ZRP members to refund the total fine amounting
to RTGS$1 000 paid by Precious and Privilege and also directed ZRP
members to compile a docket and bring the twins sisters to appear in
court for a proper hearing and determination of their matter.

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