War veterans plead not guilty as trial for singing chimurenga songs commence

THIRTY-NINE veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation war on Friday 4 February 2022 pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting public violence as their trial for allegedly singing “Chimurenga” songs commenced before Harare Magistrate Barbra Mateko.


The liberation war veterans are on trial after they were arrested by
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers on 26 October 2021 in central
Harare and charged with participating in a gathering with intent to
promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in
Section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Prosecutors claim that the war veterans gathered at Africa Unity
Square singing “Chimurenga songs” with the intention to promote pubic
violence or breaches of peace or realising that there was a real risk
or possibility of forcibly disturbing the peace, security or order of
the public.

The war veterans, prosecutors charged, intended to handover a petition
to Parliament and at Munhumutapa Building, which houses President
Emmerson Mnangagwa’s offices outlining their grievances but were told
to only allow five people to do so but reportedly refused and insisted
that they all wanted to present as a group.

The prosecutors claimed that the war veterans refused to heed an order
issued by ZRP officers to disperse and started singing “revolutionary
songs” and thereby disturbing the peace and movement of pedestrians
and some vehicles.

After pleading not guilty at the commencement of their trial, the war
veterans filed an application excepting to the charges.

In the application, the war veterans’ lawyers Paidamoyo Saurombe,
Idirashe Chikomba and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights, asked Magistrate Mateko to uphold their application for
exception and acquit the former liberation war fighters.

Saurombe, Chikomba and Chinopfukutwa argued that the charge as set out
in the charge sheet and State outline is defective as it does not
disclose an offence and also lacks sufficient detail and particularity
to inform the war veterans of the case they have to meet.

They also argued that it is not clear from the charge what is meant by
the phrase “Chimurenga song” as to whether it refers to the music
coined and played by the musician Thomas Mapfumo or to the songs
played during the war of liberation.

The human rights lawyers stated that whatever the phrase “Chimurenga
songs” means does not suffice to disclose an offence in terms of
Section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and
that Chimurenga songs, in one form or another, are routinely sung and
played at national events and during national holidays while people
are gathered hence that on its own does and cannot constitute an

In addition, the lawyers stated that the charge and State outline did
not specify the nature and particular lyrics of the Chimurenga songs
which the war veterans were allegedly singing which would have created
an intention on their part to forcibly disturb the peace, security or
order of the public hence gathering and singing Chimurenga songs on
its own does not constitute an offence.

The war veterans return to court on 28 February 2022 when Magistrate
Mateko will hand down her ruling on the application for exception.

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