EVAN BLOW: High Court to rule on bail next week; cleric at Chikurubi over past 10 days

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By Mary Taruvinga

PROMINENT activist and #This Flag leader Evan Mawarire will spend more days in remand prison after the High Court on Friday reserved judgment on his bail application.

Justice Tawanda Chitapi said he would make his ruling next week.

This means Mawarire will spend the weekend in custody at Chikurubi where he has been detained since his arrest on January 16.

The cleric was one of the hundreds of protestors arrested after violent protests against fuel price increases last week.

Mawarire is facing a charge of subverting a constitutionally elected government by allegedly inciting the protests.

The State argues that he recorded a video which went viral on social media calling on Zimbabweans to stay at home during the three-day protest which was called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

He was refused conditional freedom by a Harare magistrate Lucy Mungwari after which he approached High Court Judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi to appeal the lower court’s ruling.

“His parents are willing to surety in form of title deeds,” defence lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara told the judge on Friday.

“The applicant is also giving personal assurance that he will not abscond. He had an opportunity to flee before he was arrested because the police were manning the front gate for two hours.

“He could have used the back door to escape, but he waited because he did not commit any offence.”

Prosecutors opposed bail arguing that since his claimed accomplice, Peter Mutasa, the president of Zimbabwe Congress for Trade Unions (ZCTU) the on the run, they were likely to team up and re-offend.

However, Mawarire’s lawyers told court that Mutasa is not on the run and is ready to surrender himself to the police.

The lawyers’ also submitted that the State’s case was weak as their client committed no offence.

“Subversion can only prevail if one sets a group or committee with intention to coerce physical force or violence on the government,” said the defence attorney.

“It’s not an offence to boycott or to peacefully react. The video is clear regarding the issue of violence since the accused specifically indicated that people should commit no violence, no burning of tyres or properties.”

But the state insisted that Mawirire should stay behind bars since he was likely to endure a long custodial sentence if convicted.

“That alone is enough inducement for him to abscond,” argued prosecutor Mirirai Chiremba.

Chiremba was however, criticised by the Judge who charged; “Go through the whole video transcript not just cherry picking. Where was the violence applied?

“Is it wrong for the subject to make demands for reasons of staying away… what if the court gags him by stopping him from addressing the public.

“You see, the stronger the evidence you give, the greater the temptation to lock him up.”

The prosecutor then said by circulating the video, Mawarire caused public disobedience.

He was at pains to nail Mawarire as the transcript of the video he read before the court confirmed that the cleric called for peaceful shutdown.

Mawarire also ended the video by urging the public to pray for peace and the country.

Even so, the prosecutor said the public will lose trust in the public if Mawarire is released.

But Justice Chitapi asked; “So, are you saying I should lock him up to please the public? “There was inflammation of course but there should be a debate on what exactly caused that.”

The case was then provisionally postponed to next Tuesday for bail ruling.

The cleric has been in custody since January 16.

According to the state, in connivance with Mutasa, Mawarire recorded a video calling for a shut down.

The state says this resulted in violent protests in which properties including police stations and vehicles were burnt.

Some shops were looted during the protests and at least 12 were killed.