By Professor Matodzi
Bulawayo, 03 August, 2016 – A Bulawayo court has acquitted four city residents who were arrested and charged for allegedly calling on President Robert Mugabe to step down.
In July, police arrested Mthokozisi Ncube, Alfred Dzirutwe, Robson Tera and Thembelihle Sibanda, who are all unemployed residents living in the country’s second largest city.
They were charged with criminal nuisance and being in contravention of Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
When their trial commenced last month, the State claimed that they had interfered with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public and created a nuisance or obstruction.
This is after they allegedly gathered in the CBD July 6, wrote and displayed some “derogatory” placards inscribed with messages which read “Mugabe Must Go” and at the same time singing a song laden with the lyrics “Mugabe Must Go”.
“The accused persons were arrested by police who were deployed at the said site and the derogatory placards were recovered,” reads part of the charge sheet seen by RadioVOP.
The State claimed that by so doing Ncube, Dzirutwe, Tera and Sibanda interfered with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public.
However, Bulawayo Magistrate Tawanda Muchemwa on Tuesday freed the four residents after granting an application for discharge at the close of the State case filed by the residents’ lawyers Lison Ncube, Tanaka Muganyi and Lizwe Jamela of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
In their application for discharge at the close of the State case, the human rights lawyers argued that prosecutors had failed during trial to prove essential elements of the offence and above all the residents were exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate and it would be improper to conclude that their actions would amount to criminal nuisance.
Ncube, Muganyi and Jamela argued that the State dismally failed to prove its case and that the arrest of the four residents was arbitrary.
Apart from the four, more than 80 residents in Bulawayo are awaiting trial on public violence charges after they were also arrested during the anti-government protests.
According to ZLHR, the human rights organisation attended to offering legal assistance to close to 300 people who were arrested across the country during the massive protests dubbed #shutdownzim2016.