Cases Against Protestors Crumble As Courts Acquit Them Over Anti-Govt Demos

SIX people have been set free after they stood trial on charges of participating in anti-government protests staged in 2019 over the country’s worsening economic crisis.

Harare Magistrate Yeukai Chigodora on Wednesday 11 March 2020 acquitted five Harare residents namely Norman Ngulube, Ngonidzashe Danzwa, Desmond Kanhukamwe, Doubt Gumi and Tafadzwa Moyi after she granted their application for discharge at the close of the prosecution case.

Ngulube, Danzwa, Kanhukamwe, Gumi and Moyi had been on trial after they were arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers on 16 August 2019 and charged with contravening 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.

In their defence, Ngulube, Kanhukamwe, Gumi and Moyi, who were represented by Gift Mtisi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) all told Magistrate Chigodora during trial that they were alone walking in Harare’s central business district and attending to their normal and legal while Danzwa, who was seated with his grandmother when they were rounded up by some police officers, who arrested them wrongly on false allegations of participating in a public gathering with intention to cause public violence, bigotry or breaches of peace.

In their application for discharge at the close of the prosecution case, the five Harare residents argued that the ZRP officers who apprehended them did so in dragnets arrests based on assumption that they were protestors, who had taken part in demonstrations called for by MDC Alliance party on 16 August 2019, which was suppressed by ZRP officers on the basis that the protest was not sanctioned.

Also in Rusape in Manicaland province, Magistrate Obedience Matare recently acquitted Isaac Juao aged 37, who had been on trial after he was apprehended in January 2020 by some ZRP members, who accused him of participating in the January 2019 anti-government protests held across the country to protest against the unilateral hike in fuel prices.

Juao, who was represented by Taurai Khupe of ZLHR, was accused of contravening section 36(1)(a)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, it being alleged that he committed acts of public violence including tearing a campaign billboard of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, burnt tyres and erected barricades across Chiduku road in Rusape.

In acquitting Juao, Magistrate Matare ruled that prosecutors had failed to lead evidence during the trial of the 37 year-old man linking him to the commission of the offence.

In Harare, ZRP officers on Tuesday 10 March 2020 set free Chitungwiza Mayor Lovemore Maiko and Wendy Makaza, a resident of Mabelreign suburb, who spent one night in police detention after they were arrested on Monday 9 March 2020 and charged with criminal nuisance as defined in section 46 2 v of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

ZRP officers accused the duo of singing and causing discomfort to a group of some law enforcement agents, who were reportedly stationed outside Morgan Tsvangirai House, the opposition MDC-Alliance party headquarters.

Maiko and Makaza, who were represented by Marufu Mandevere of ZLHR were released into the custody of their lawyer and were advised that police officers would proceed by serving them with summons to appear in court for trial if they intended to pursue with prosecuting them.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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