51 Epworth residents acquitted after one-month prison incarceration over shutdown protests

By Court Reporter

DOZENS of Epworth residents over the weekend walked out of Chikurubi
Maximum Prison after a Zimbabwean court acquitted them on charges of
committing public violence during anti-government protests held across
the country last month over the country’s worsening economic
conditions.

Harare Magistrate Francis Mapfumo on Friday 15 February 2019 set free
51 Epworth residents, who were arrested on 14 January 2019 and charged
with public violence as defined in section 36 of the Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Act.

The Epworth residents were accused of barricading Chiremba road using
stones and burning some vehicle tyres and pulling down a sign post at
a police station, which disturbed the free movement of traffic and
members of the public.

But Magistrate Mapfumo on Friday 15 February 2019 acquitted the 51
Epworth residents, who were represented by Nontokozo Dube-Tachiona,
Kossam Ncube and Gugulethu Mahlangu-Simango of Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights, after discharging them at the close of the prosecution
case.

Magistrate Mapfumo ruled that the state failed to establish a
compelling case against the Epworth residents which would warrant that
they be placed on their defence.

The Magistrate ruled that the evidence led during trial by the state
was shown to be manifestly unreliable hence it was not safe to rely
upon it and that most of the accused persons were not even placed at
the scene of the crime as no one claimed to have identified them
committing any offence.

The trial of the remaining seven Epworth residents who were put to
their defence continues at Harare Magistrates Court on Tuesday 19
February 2019.
Meanwhile, ZLHR lawyers also secured freedom for Mark Viyazhi and
Phillip Chimbare, who were represented by Rudo Magundani of ZLHR and
had been on trial after they were arrested for allegedly participating
in the anti-government demonstrations held in January.

In Mbare, Magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa last week also acquitted some
Highfields high-density suburb residents namely Nyasha Kangwara, May
Rusenza, Bothwell Mawire, Hamlet Munyanyi, Godfrey Mathe and Justice
Kanyasa at the close of the state case after they stood trial on
public violence charges. The Highfield high-density suburb residents
were represented by Gift Mtisi, Webster Jiti and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa
of ZLHR.