MDC protestors' bail quashed

HARARE - Seven MDC activists accused of obstructing or endangering free movement of people and traffic shall remain in custody, after the State vetoed their bail order.

The State invoked section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act yesterday to quash a bail ruling by a Harare magistrate court to grant them bail.

The State used Section 121 to suspend the bail order, and prolong the detention by a further seven days. Section 121 of the CPEA has been used in the past to prolong detention of perceived opponents of Zanu PF.

The court had granted MDC MP for Harare Metropolitan, Ronia Bunjira, Danmore Tshuma, Keith Charumbira, Bridget Nyandoro, Stanley Manyenga, Stewart Gwebe, and Linnete Chibinya bail of $300 each.

By invoking the section, the State gets seven days during which to appeal against the granting of bail.

The MDC members were arrested on Monday when they staged a protest march demanding jobs in central Harare.

Through their lawyer, Obey Shava, the group had told the court during their initial court appearance on Monday that they were assaulted while in police custody.

Shava told Harare magistrate Douglas Chikwekwe that they intend to make a constitutional application.

“The constitutional challenge will be premised upon the provisions of Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides for the right to demonstrate and petition,” Shava said.

He said the incarceration of his clients was in violation of their constitutional right to demonstrate.

Shava said it was imperative for the court to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court for the determination of the issues that he raised.

Shava proceeded to make a bail application for his clients, after the State opposed the request, which bail application was okayed yesterday but subsequently quashed by the State.

“There are no compelling reasons for this court to deprive the accused persons of their individual liberty,” Shava said.

The magistrate concurred but was overruled by the invocation of Section 121.

According to prosecutor Babra Ndoro, a group of about 40 MDC activists obstructed free movement of people and traffic as they demonstrated, waving placards.

Ndoro alleges that the MDC supporters gathered at Harvest House, the MDC’s headquarters in central Harare, with an intention of staging a demonstration.

According to State papers, the placards were written “We demand our jobs now”; “We want our jobs now” and “Release our leader”.

The court heard the group marched from Harvest House, and went around town, before they were stopped by police officers at the intersection of Jason Moyo and Julius Nyerere Street.

The State claims the group started attacking the police with stones, leading to one of the police officers sustaining an injury on his back and face.

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