21 to appear in court over public violence

HARARE - Zimbabwean police said yesterday they would charge 21 people with committing public violence over an anti-Zimbabwe Electoral Commission protest on Wednesday that degenerated into deadly violence that claimed seven lives, and raised new concerns about freedom of assembly.

The demo was in protest at the delayed announcement of the first post-Robert Mugabe election. The MDC Alliance said the ruling Zanu PF party was attempting to rig the vote to allow President Emmerson Mnangagwa to win, and the delay in releasing official results was unacceptable.

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers raided the offices of the opposition MDC Alliance party in central Harare and arrested the 21 after obtaining a search warrant authorising them to search for grenades, stones, unlicensed firearms, ammunition, computers, computer accessories and some subversive material.

They also had search warrants for MDC Alliance leaders Nelson Chamisa, Tendai Biti, Happymore Chidziva, Denford Ngadziore, Stewart Mukoyi, pro-democracy campaigner Makomborero Haruzivishe and National Patriotic Front members Shadreck Mashayamombe and Jim Kunaka.

ZRP charged the 21 people, who are represented by Gift Mtisi and Denford Halimani of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, with committing public violence as defined in section 36 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The law enforcement agents claimed that they were involved in alleged acts of public violence.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba told a news conference on Thursday that seven cars were set on fire, while eight cars had their wind screens damaged.

“At the Simon Muzenda commuter rank, the youths who were visibly drunk, went to Zanu PF provincial headquarters and completely set ablaze the following; a Nissan Hardbody Wolf, a Ford Ranger, Toyota Allion, Yutong Bus, Mazda Capella, a Mini Cooper and a Honda Fit,” she said.

The 21 people are set to appear at Harare Magistrates Court today.

Meanwhile, Mtisi and Halimani were on Friday pressing the ZRP to release Agatha Mubaiwa, who was arrested together with 20 others to allow her to be hospitalised as she is suffering from possible malaria.

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