Zim Court Ends Kurauone’s Lengthy Detention as Journalists Acquitted for Violating Covid-19 Regulations

Masvingo Magistrate Patience Madondo on Thursday 10 September 2020 ended the lengthy detention of Ward 4 Councillor Godfrey Kurauone, who spent more than 40 days in detention after he was arrested and charged with obstructing the free movement of traffic during a protest held in July.

Kurauone, who was represented by Martin Mureri of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) was arrested on 31 July 2020 by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members who charged him with obstructing or endangering the free movement of persons or traffic as defined in section 38(c) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Since his arrest in July, he was denied bail by the Magistrates Court and the High Court and had been detained in remand prison and only stood trial which commenced last week.

During his trial, prosecutors alleged that Kurauone blocked roads by putting stones and burnt tyres along the Gaths Mine to Chirumanzu road for a stretch of 500 metres on Friday 31 July 2020.

Kurauone had also been charged with criminal nuisance as defined in section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly circulating a video on WhatsApp on 20 July 2020 showing him singing a song with lyrics which authorities deemed derogatory to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

But prosecutors later withdrew the criminal nuisance charge and prosecuted him over the charge of obstruction of free movement of persons and traffic.

However, Magistrate Madondo on Thursday 10 September 2020 acquitted Kurauone after Mureri applied for discharge at the close of the prosecution case thereby ending his prison ordeal.

In Harare, Mbare Magistrate Kudzai Hove on Thursday 10 September 2020 acquitted two journalists Frank Chikowore and Samuel Takawira, who had been on trial after they were arrested on Friday 22 May 2020 by some ZRP members at Parktown Hospital in Harare while allegedly filming and interviewing some victims of abduction and torture detained at the medical facility. The journalists, who were out of custody on bail, were charged with contravening section 11(b) of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020, Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment, and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order, 2020.

During trial, prosecutors told Magistrate Hove that Chikowore and Takawira, who were represented by Paidamoyo Saurombe and Tonderai Bhatasara of ZLHR failed or refused without sufficient cause to comply with any request made or direction given by a police officer when they allegedly sneaked into the High Dependency Unit at Parktown Hospital to interview Harare West legislator Hon. Joanna Mamombe and MDC Alliance party youth leaders Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, who are currently hospitalised at the medical facility after they were abducted and disappeared and tortured by some yet to be identified people.

Prosecutors charged that Chikowore and Takawira were arrested by Detective Constable Collin Makore, who was reportedly providing security at the medical facility for allegedly failing to observe the social distancing protocols between themselves as well as not maintaining social distancing with the detained victims of abduction and torture.

But Magistrate Hove on Thursday 10 September 2020 acquitted the journalists at the close of the state case after agreeing with Saurombe and Bhatasara, who had applied for their discharge on the basis that the state had failed to prove its case against the journalists.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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