Cases against protestors crumble as court acquits them over anti-govt demos

SIX people were 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 recently
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 business 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.