Activist, 70 protestors remanded in custody

HARARE - Political activist Promise Mkwananzi and 70 suspected protesters were yesterday remanded in custody after they appeared in court facing charges of inciting and committing public violence.

The suspects — among them three minors, a freelance journalist, an expecting mother and senior citizens — limped into court carrying the weight of their bruises from clashes with riot police.

Mkwananzi and the suspected protesters will appear in court tomorrow for bail consideration, magistrate Vakai Chikwekwe ruled.

It is the State’s case that Mkwananzi acted in connivance with Kudakwashe Peta, and other accused persons still on the run, to instigate sporadic demonstrations that led to the torching of a police truck and a ZBC vehicle on August 24.

Public prosecutor Michael Reza further alleged that the pair, in connivance with others, assaulted several members of the uniformed forces.

However, challenging the duo’s placement on remand, defence council Tonderai Bhatasara argued that Mkwananzi’s right to privacy was infringed during his arrest by the police who searched his mobile phone without his consent and without a search warrant.

He added that there was no compelling suspicion for the pair to be remanded in custody.

“That accused one (Mkwananzi) is the head of the #Tajumuka group... that is not evidence at all,” Bhatasara said.

“Assuming there is such a group called #Tajumuka, which is denied, the first accused is not the head of such a group but even if he is the head of the group which is denied, it is not an offense to be part of a group... Belonging to a group is not public violence and we are here on a charge of public violence there has to be a link,” he said.

However, the State maintained that the two be placed    on formal remand arguing there was reasonable suspicion to do so.

“Reasonable suspicion does not require the same merit as guilty beyond reasonable doubt otherwise it seizes to become suspicion and it becomes fact,” Reza said.

In passing judgement, Chikwekwe also considered that the court was already beyond the gazetted time and had other matters to deal with.

Tensions rose as Bhatasara persistently argued for urgency of the defence’s bail application before Chikwekwe suddenly stood up and adjourned the court before coming back moments later to start the hearing of the 70 protesters.

Jeremiah Bhamu represented the 70 protesters who were handed the same judgment as Mkwananzi.

Three minors were released into the custody of their pare- nts.

It is the State’s case that the accused persons teamed up and held a public gathering at the open space near Rainbow Towers — popularly known as Freedom Square — where they had a public hearing before conspiring to proceed into the Harare central business district to cause public violence on Friday.

Bhamu pleaded that the suspects be allowed to receive medical attention from practitioners of their choice, saying they had been denied the opportunity while in police custody.

Comments (1)

With the rioting police inciting the public, we should be happy that no riot police have been torched or killed to date but this can change anytime. The anger is mounting - its either you side with tear gas and water canon group or the victims. I am one of the angry citizens who is fed up with these gangsters/thieves/murderers and morons who support them who treat innocents as villains.

Sagitarr - 28 August 2016

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