Harare, August 22, 2014 – Zimbabwean authorities have courted the ire of the country’s leading legal defence group after outlawing bail orders for seven political activists who were arrested Monday when police suppressed an anti-government protest.
Harare Magistrate Vakai Chikwekwe on Friday granted $300 bail to Ronia Bunjira, an MDC-T legislator and six other party supporters who were arrested Monday and charged with contravening Section 38 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 for allegedly obstructing or endangering free movement of persons or traffic.
Magistrate Chikwekwe also ordered the seven protesters Keith Charumbira, Stanley Manyenga, Bridget Nyandoro, Linnete Chibinya, Stewarty Gwebe, Danmore Tshuma and Bunjira to reside at their given residential addresses and not to interfere with State witnesses until the matter is finalised.
But State prosecutor Barbra Ndoro immediately invoked Section 121 of the Criminal Evidence and Procedure Act (CPEA) to suspend the bail order which had been granted to the MDC-T activists, who were represented by Obey Shava and Hopewell Chitima of Mbidzo, Makoni and Muchadehama Legal Practitioners.
Ndoro claimed that the MDC-T activists, who were remanded in custody to next month threw stones at police officers without being provoked during a demonstration staged on Monday demanding that President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF government fulfills their pre-election pledge of creating 2 million jobs for the unemployed citizens.
The intransigent invocation of Section 121 of the CPEA by Ndoro has the effect of suspending the bail order for seven days pending the filing of an appeal by the State in the High Court.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Friday reacted angrily to the State’s actions which it condemned as spiteful and groundless.
ZLHR said the malicious and obdurate actions of the State unnecessarily infringes upon the fundamental right to liberty of accused persons.
“This draconian piece of legislation is frequently abused to the prejudice of suspects as prosecutors are clearly usurping the powers of the judiciary who in this case had safeguarded the fundamental right to liberty of the accused persons,” said ZLHR Executive Director, Irene Petras.
ZLHR said it remains concerned about the increased number of cases in which Section 121 of the CPEA has been arbitrarily and unjustifiably invoked, particularly against political and other genuine human rights defenders in Zimbabwe.
The human rights organisation which has been at the forefront of defending persecuted human and political rights activists in Zimbabwe said it was challenging the constitutionality of Section 121 of the CPEA in the Constitutional Court.
The MDC-T activists sustained severe injuries after they were assaulted by police officers who arrested them when the law enforcement agents broke an anti-government protest on Monday. The activists complained of police assault while in custody and Magistrate Chikwekwe ordered the state to probe the complaints against the police.