A Zimbabwean court on Wednesday 24 April 2019 acquitted seven leaders of the country’s largest labour union, who had been on trial for allegedly participating in an anti-government protest over the country’s biting economic crisis.
The seven Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders namely President Peter Mutasa, Secretary-General Japhet Moyo, Benice Maluleke, Prescilla Jonhi, Simon Mutasa, Munashe Chirovamari and Ezekiel Matema had been on trial since last year when they were arrested on Thursday 11 October 2018 by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers and charged with committing public violence as defined in section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry.
Their arrest came after ZRP swooped on them in a pre-emptive strike to thwart an anti-government protest organised by the labour union to protest against government’s disastrous economic policies.
But Harare Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa on Wednesday 24 April 2019 acquitted the seven ZCTU leaders, who were represented by Kossam Ncube, Tinomuda Shoko and Alec Muchadehama of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, after discharging them at the close of the prosecution case.
In setting free the labour unionists, Magistrate Mugwagwa ruled that the State failed to establish that any offence was committed in the first place noting that even the ZRP officers who testified as witnesses during the trial had confirmed that demonstrations are legal in terms of the Constitution. Magistrate Mugwagwa ruled that there was no indication that there was an intention to cause violence more so given that the unionists were arrested at the ZCTU offices while preparing to participate in a demonstration.
In addition, Magistrate Mugwagwa ruled that ZRP officers who testified as witnesses during the trial and who claimed to have retrieved some offensive placards from the ZCTU leaders failed to link each placard to each accused person as there was no indication as to which accused person was carrying which placard.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)