Gwisai Pleads For Lighter Sentence

Gwisai and other social rights activists were on Monday convicted of conspiracy to cause public violence by Harare magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini.

Muchadehama argued that the stringent bail conditions they endured hindered the exercise of their basic freedoms and should be factored in when sentence is being passed.

“Their trial took about eight months to be concluded,” he said, “The wait itself had considerable damage to their lives.

“Their freedoms therefore were seriously curtailed. The accused further suffered a lot of mental distress while waiting for justice to be done.”

Muchadehama also asked the court to consider the accused have shown commitment to the fulfilment of justice.

“All the accused have stuck to the narrow and straight. They have been law abiding citizens. Credit therefore must be given to these citizens.”

He singled out Antoneta Choto, the only female accused person in the group, saying she has had brain surgery three times in her life and the pathetic jail conditions would all but worsen her medical situation.

The human rights lawyer insisted Gwisai and his co-convicts were still innocent and hinted at filing an appeal at the High Court should the lower court turn down the accused persons’ request for a lesser sentence.

The accused face up to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of up to US$2000.

But in his submissions before a court packed with civil society activists, friends and relatives to the accused, Muchadehama implored the court to allow the accused to pay a fine of up to US$500.

He asked the court not to pin his clients down on charges of inciting a revolt against the sitting Mugabe regime saying this remained a remote possibility given that Zimbabwean police were hyper alert in crushing similar demonstrations.

“The police here are good at crushing meetings just like they did to this one,” he said, “They even crush peaceful demonstrations including those of women who would be distributing roses.”

But in his opposing submissions, state prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba insisted on a 10 year imprisonment saying that is what Zimbabwean laws stipulate.

He added, “If they are given a non custodial sentence, they will repeat what they did and will even fine tune the plan until their wishes come to fruition.”

He dismissed claims of torture by the accused saying the latter have not proven these allegations.

“A deterrent sentence is appropriate in this case and should serve as an example to would be offenders,” he said.

“Imposing a non custodial sentence would be stretching the notion of leniency rather too far. This would be tantamount to bringing the criminal justice system to ridicule.”

Gwisai, a University of Zimbabwe lecturer and the country’s general coordinator of the International Socialist Organisation, is jointly charged with Tatenda Mombeyarara, Edson Chakuma, Hopewell Gumbo and Welcome Zimuto.