Zim court acquits first batch of “Shutdown” protest detainees

By Staff Reporter

HARARE- SEVEN people have been set free after the courts found them not guilty
of committing public violence crimes after they were arrested by
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers last week for allegedly
participating in anti-government protests.

The six Chinhoyi residents namely Obey Zirota aged 37 years,
Simbarashe Mubaira Kuenda aged 25 years, Mini Bizabani aged 41 years,
Owen Musariranwa aged 48 years, Basil Nhira aged 19 years and Adonai
Tiriwawi aged 22 years, stood trial in Mashonaland West province after
they were arrested by ZRP officers a fortnight ago and charged with
public violence as defined in section 36(1)(a) of the Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Act.

During trial, prosecutors alleged that the six residents on Tuesday 15
January 2019 and at Christos Shopping Centre located along the
Chinhoyi-Chegutu Highway, unlawfully and forcibly disturbed the peace
security or order of the public by erecting some barricades along the
road, threw stones at passing vehicles, attacked police officers, who
were manning a roadblock, burnt tyres and destroyed some equipment,
which was being used by ZRP officers at a roadblock.

But Zirota, Kuenda, Bizabani, Musariranwa, Nhira and Tiriwawi, who
were represented by Tinashe Jore of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
(ZLHR), were acquitted on Thursday 24 January 2019 at the close of
State case by Chinhoyi Magistrate Letwin Rwodzi-Machakaire after she
ruled that there was no evidence presented in court by the State
linking the accused persons to the commission of the alleged offence.

In Mashonaland Central province, Guruve Magistrate Shingirai Mutiro
acquitted Ernest Gandayi, who stood trial after he was arrested by ZRP
officers two weeks ago for allegedly participating in the
anti-government demonstrations held across the country to protest
against the worsening economic crisis.

Prosecutors claimed that Gandayi, who was represented by Ernest Jena
of ZLHR, contravened section 36(1)(a) of the Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Act after he allegedly obstructed or
endangered free movement of persons or traffic.

In acquitting Gandayi, Magistrate Mutiro ruled that the state
witnesses who testified during his trial did not link him to the
commission of the crime while they also disowned the witness
statements which ZRP officers recorded from them. In the end,
Magistrate Mutiro ruled that the evidence given during the trial was
so unreliable such that no reasonable court would act upon it.