#FeesMustFall: Court acquits Pastor Mawarire as judge postpones “subversion” trial to November

THE trial of #ThisFlag and His Generation Church leader, Pastor Evan Mawarire will continue in November after High Court Judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba deferred proceedings to allow the clergyman to file his application for discharge at the close of the State case.

The State represented by Chris Mutangadura of the National Prosecuting Authority on Friday 29 September 2017 closed its case after leading evidence from all its witnesses.

On Friday 29 September 2017, one of the state witness Chief Superintendent Patrick Romeo Moyo, the Officer Commanding criminal investigations, law and order in the Southern region claimed that Pastor Mawarire had encouraged citizens to undertake passive resistance, which amounts to committing acts of public violence.

Besides Moyo, another state witness Assistant Commissioner Crispen Makedenge told Justice Chigumba that Pastor Mawarire should have taken legal action and petitioned the courts if he had some grievances against President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Pastor Mawarire’s trial will resume on Wednesday 29 November 2017 in Court A at the High Court, where Justice Chigumba is expected to make a determination on the clergyman’s application for discharge at the close of the state case.

The 40 year-old clergyman, who is represented by Harrison Nkomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), was arrested in July 2016 and later on in January 2017 and charged with two counts of subverting constitutional government as defined in section 22 (2) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 or alternatively incitement to commit public violence as defined in section 187 (1) (a) as read with Section 36 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23.

The state claims that Pastor Mawarire incited Zimbabweans from “all walks of life” to revolt and overthrow a constitutionally elected government.

The clergyman has pleaded not guilty to charges of subverting constitutional government and of incitement to commit public violence.

Meanwhile, Harare Magistrate Tilda Mazhande on Friday 29 September 2017 acquitted Pastor Mawarire and Ocean Chihota, who had been on trial for promoting public violence and disorderly conduct after they allegedly addressed some University of Zimbabwe (UZ) students on Monday 26 June 2017 during a protest against an increase in fees.

Magistrate Mazhande ruled that the state had failed in its bid to convince her to convict the clergyman.

Pastor Mawarire and Chihota had been on trial since last week after they were arrested on Monday 26 June 2017 and charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in Section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 or alternatively disorderly conduct as defined in Section 41 (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.

During trial, prosecutors claimed that the clergyman and Chihota had connived and hatched a plan to act violently against some University of Zimbabwe (UZ) authorities and urged some medical students to confront and force UZ Vice Chancellor Levi Nyagura to reverse the increase in fees for students.

The prosecutors charged that Mawarire, Chihota and some unnamed students staged a demonstration at the UZ campus while holding placards with messages which read “fees must fall, my father is a teacher” and “my mother is a vendor”.

However, Magistrate Mazhande on Friday 29 September 2017 acquitted Mawarire at the close of the state case after his lawyer, Nkomo of ZLLHR, protested that the state had failed to present evidence linking the clergyman to committing the offence of promoting pubic violence and disorderly conduct.

The acquittal of Pastor Mawarire on Friday 29 September 2017 comes barely a week after another Harare Magistrate Elisha Singano set the clergyman free on Wednesday 27 September 2017 after ruling that the state had violated his constitutional rights by failing to bring him to appear before the
court within 48 hours as enshrined in the Constitution.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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