ZCTU leaders acquited over anti-govt protest

By Court Reporter

A ZIMBABWEAN court on Wednesday  acquitted seven leaders
of the country’s largest labour union, who had been on trial for
allegedly participating in an anti-government protest over the
country’s biting economic crisis.

The seven Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders namely
President Peter Mutasa, Secretary-General Japhet Moyo, Benice
Maluleke, Prescilla Jonhi, Simon Mutasa, Munashe Chirovamari and
Ezekiel Matema had been on trial since last year when they were
arrested on Thursday 11 October 2018 by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)
officers and charged with committing public violence as defined in
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.

Their arrest came after ZRP swooped on them in a pre-emptive strike to
thwart an anti-government protest organised by the labour union to
protest against government’s disastrous economic policies.

But Harare Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa on Wednesday 24 April 2019
acquitted the seven ZCTU leaders, who were represented by Kossam
Ncube, Tinomuda Shoko and Alec Muchadehama of Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights, after discharging them at the close of the prosecution
case.

In setting free the labour unionists, Magistrate Mugwagwa ruled that
the State failed to establish that any offence was committed in the
first place noting that even the ZRP officers who testified as
witnesses during the trial had confirmed that demonstrations are legal
in terms of the Constitution.
Magistrate Mugwagwa ruled that there was no indication that there was
an intention to cause violence more so given that the unionists were
arrested at the ZCTU offices while preparing to participate in a
demonstration.

In addition, Magistrate Mugwagwa ruled that ZRP officers who testified
as witnesses during the trial and who claimed to have retrieved some
offensive placards from the ZCTU leaders failed to link each placard
to each accused person as there was no indication as to which accused
person was carrying which placard.