Human rights campaigners granted stringent bail conditions as judge castigates police conduct

By Court Reporter

HIGH Court Judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi on Friday 7 June 2019 set
free four human rights campaigners, who had spent more than two weeks
in prison after they were arrested last month and charged with
subverting constitutional government.

The four human rights defenders namely George Makoni, Tatenda
Mombeyarara, Gamuchirai Mukura and Frank Nyasha Mpahlo had been
detained at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison after they were arrested
on Monday 20 May 2019 and charged with subverting constitutional
government as defined in section 22(2)(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Act.

Prosecutors accused the quartet of travelling to Maldives on 13 May
2019, where they allegedly attended a training workshop organised by
Centre for Applied Non Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a
Serbian non-governmental organisation, with the intention of
subverting a constitutionally elected government.

The State claimed that during the training workshop, the four human
rights campaigners, who are represented by Jeremiah Bamu and Godfrey
Mupanga of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, were trained on how to
mobilise citizens to turn against the government and to engage in acts
of civil disobedience and or resistance to any law during some
anticipated national protests organised by some anti-government
movements.

The law enforcements agents charged that Makoni, Mombeyarara, Mukura
and Mpahlo were also trained on how to operate small arms and to evade
arrest during civil unrest and on counter-intelligence and acts of
terrorism.

But Justice Chitapi on Friday 7 June 2019 ordered that Makoni,
Mombeyarara, Mukura and Mpahlo be released from prison upon payment of
$1 000 RTGS as bail money after ruling that it is in the interest of
justice that the quartet be set free.
The High Court Judge also imposed some stringent bail conditions for
the four human rights campaigners after ordering them to report
everyday at various Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) stations including
continuing to reside at their given residential addresses until the
case is finalised and not to interfere with witnesses and police
investigations.

Justice Chitapi advised Makoni, Mombeyarara, Mukura and Mpahlo that
they could petition the High Court seeking a variation of their
stringent reporting conditions.

The Judge castigated the practice and conduct of some members of ZRP,
who apprehended the human rights defenders saying it was clear that
the law enforcement agents had arrested Makoni, Mombeyarara, Mukura
and Mpahlo in order to investigate and did not conduct investigations
first as should be the case.

Justice Chitapi implored Zimbabwean authorities to uphold the
provisions of the Bill of Rights outlined in Chapter 4 of the
Constitution, which provides for respect of citizens’ fundamental
rights and freedoms.

The Judge stated that during the bail hearing, the State did not show
that Makoni, Mombeyarara, Mpahlo and Mukura were involved in
organising or participating in any violent anti-government protests in
the past so as to warrant curtailment of their freedoms and that the
programme of activity for the workshop which they allegedly attended
does not show elements of subversion.