“Each accused person is to pay a fine of US$500 and on default 10 months imprisonment,” said Harare magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini while pronouncing his sentence.
Jarabini further sentenced the six to 24 months imprisonment, 12 months of which were suspended for five years on condition of good behaviour.
The balance of 12 months was suspended on condition that the accused persons complete their 420 hours of community service.
Jarabini said his court had conceded the submissions made by the accused through their attorney during mitigation on Tuesday that a prison would worsen their personal circumstances since five of them were bread winners.
He said his sentence was also influenced by that the accused’s plan to incite the overthrow of the current government was “fortuitously interrupted before the finer details could be discussed”.
Although this was great relief to the embattled social rights activists who were until Wednesday afternoon starring 10 year jail terms for conspiracy to cause public violence, their lawyer Alec Muchadehama immediately advised the court they want to appeal against the court’s imposition of community service.
“Obviously the accused are aggrieved by the sentence as well as the conviction. So I have instruction to appeal against both conviction and sentence,” Muchadehama said.
Jarabini will on March 26 hear submissions from both the state and the defence on whether he can grant leave to appeal against the sentence or not.
Gwisai, a University of Zimbabwe lecturer, is jointly charged with Antoneta Choto (36), Tatenda Mombeyarara (29), Edson Chakuma (38), Hopewell Gumbo (32) and Welcome Zimuto (25).
Wednesday’s highly anticipated ruling provoked wild scenes of celebration outside the court building among youths from the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) leading to the arrest of five youths for a charge that was not immediately verified.
For the third consecutive day since the accused were summoned for conviction and sentence, baton wielding anti riot police maintained a conspicuous presence in and outside court.