Cases brought against pro-democracy campaigners are collapsing in Zimbabwean courts with six students being set free in less than one week after standing trial on charges of violating national lockdown regulations and for allegedly protesting against a clampdown on some human rights activists.
First to be discharged and acquitted by Harare Magistrate Sheunesu Matova on Friday 5 November 2021, were Pritchard Paradzayi aged 21 years, Falon Dunga aged 22 years, Glen Magaya aged 21 years and Allan Chipoyi aged 21 years, who are members of Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU).
Magistrate Matova ruled that prosecutors failed to satisfy him that the elements of crime that were being alleged to have been committed by Paradzayi, Dunga, Magaya and Chipoyi had been proven during trial hence there was no need to put the quartet to their defence.
The Magistrate also ruled that the alleged intention to cause disorderly conduct brought against the four ZINASU members, who were represented by Nontokozo Dube-Tachiona of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and Tawanda Karikoga of Dube-Tachiona and Tsvangirai Legal Practitioners, was not proven.
Paradzayi, Dunga, Magaya and Chipoyi were arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police officers on 3 March 2021 and charged with disorderly conduct in a public place as defined in section 41 of the Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Act.
They were accused of gathering outside Harare Magistrates Court, where they allegedly protested against the arrest of their union leaders Takudzwa Ngadziore and Tapiwanashe Chiriga including the incarceration of former student leader Makomborero Haruzivishe.
On Tuesday 9 November 2021, two ZINASU leaders Nancy Njenge and Chiriga, were found not guilty and acquitted after a full trial, where the Magistrate ruled that the State failed to rebut evidence adduced to the effect that the duo was providing an essential service as they were attached at two law firms, when they were arrested in Harare’s central business district and charged for allegedly failing to confine themselves at home and for unnecessary movement during the national lockdown period.
Njenge, who is ZINASU’s Secretary for Gender and Chiriga, the student union’s Secretary-General, who were represented by Jeremiah Bamu of ZLHR, were arrested on 26 February 2021 and accused of contravening section 4(1)(a) of the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order Statutory Instrument 200/2020 as read with Statutory Instrument 42/2021.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights