Anti-govt protest cases crumble

NINE Harare and Chegutu residents have been set free after being hauled before the courts on charges of committing public violence for allegedly participating in last year’s anti-government demonstrations protesting against a clampdown on pro-democracy campaigners, abductions and attempts to amend the Constitution.

PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

First to be acquitted on Wednesday 8 September 2021 were Edward
Dzekwa, the MDC-Alliance Councillor for Ward 9 and the opposition
political party supporter Isheunesu Chimunyemba, who were set free by
Chegutu Magistrate Noah Gwatidzo after a full trial.

Councillor Dzekwa and Chimunyemba, who had been out of custody on
bail, had been on trial after they were arrested by Zimbabwe Republic
Police (ZRP) officers in July 2020 and charged with contravening
section 37(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for
participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence,
breach of the peace or bigotry.

The duo was also charged with unnecessary movement during a national
lockdown as defined in Section 4(1)(a) of the Public Health (COVID-19
Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order 2020,
Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020.

However, Magistrate Gwatidzo acquitted Dzekwa and Chimunyemba, who
were represented by Douglas Chikwangwani of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights (ZLHR), after ruling that the State failed to prove the alleged
case against them and that State witnesses, who were police officers
gave inconsistent evidence during trial, which could not convince him
that they were telling the truth.

On Friday 10 September 2021, Harare Magistrate Stanford Mambanje set
free lawyer and opposition MDC-Alliance party spokesperson Advocate
Fadzayi Mahere together with six other
Harare residents namely Tinotenda Muskwe, Tinashe Murapata, Jessica
Drury, Nyasha Musandu, Josse Lotter and Simon Drury after ruling that
there had been an inordinate passage of time without commencement of
their trial.

Mahere, Musandu, Muskwe, Murapata, Drury, Lotter and Drury had been on
remand for more than one year after they were arrested by ZRP officers
on 31 July 2020 and charged with participating in a public gathering
with intention to promote public violence, breach of peace or bigotry
as defined in Section 37(1)(b) of Criminal Law (Codification and
Reform) Act.

Mahere, Muskwe, Murapata, Drury, Musandu, Lotter and Drury were also
charged with unnecessary movement during the COVID-19 National
Lockdown without any exemption with prosecutors pressing a charge of
contravening section 4(1)(a) of the Public Health (COVID-19
Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order
Statutory Instrument 77/2020.

They were accused of participating in an illegal demonstration in
Harare’s Mt Pleasant suburb while holding some placards written “Free
Zim”, “#Free MDC Trio”, “#Stop abductions” and “#Hands
off Constitution”.

On Friday 10 September 2021, Magistrate Mambanje ruled that there is
no prejudice to be suffered by the State as it can still summon the
seven Harare residents to appear in court if it intends to prosecute
them.

The ruling came after the Harare residents, who were represented by
Chris Mhike of ZLHR and David Drury of Honey & Blanckenberg Legal
Practitioners, argued that there had been an inordinate passage of
time without commencement of trial and that there has been significant
prejudice suffered by the seven people as a result of excessive delay
to commence trial.

The lawyers also argued that there are risks to the health and life of
the seven Harare residents as a result of frequent remand court
appearances and the non-readiness of the State to commence trial.

Post published in: Featured

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *