By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
A 16-year-old Chinhoyi girl who found herself locked up at a Chinhoyi prison for violating the national Covid-19 curfew, was Saturday granted free bail pending appeal against sentence.
Magistrate Tendai Banda presided over the bail application.
This followed the intervention of a local non-governmental organisation, Justice for Children (JCT) which provided legal counsel for the teenager, Blessing Macharika.
JCT child rights advocate, Pamellah Musimwa told NewZimbabwe.com her organisation sought freedom for the juvenile and would launch a spirited challenge against the magistrate’s ruling.
“Bail was successfully granted and we ensured that the juvenile was released into the custody of the Department of Social Welfare.
“She would be taken to Kadoma Training Institute which is a place of safety. We are going to appeal against the harsh sentence,” said Musimwa.
Last Monday, magistrate Melody Rwizi found Blessing guilty of contravening Section 25 (2) of Statutory lnstrument (SI) 10/21 which pertains to “disobeying curfew orders and regulations.”
The minor was also convicted for breaching Section 4 (i)(a) of SI 83/20 that criminalises unnecessary movement during national lockdown.
Blessing, who is of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty and was fined $15 000 to be paid by 15 February 2021, failure to which she would spend 60 days in jail.
The magistrate set aside 30 days for the next two years on condition accused person does not commit a similar offence.
The State case led by Nyasha Sibesha was that on 28 January 2021 at around 11pm, Blessing was loitering at Gadzema main bus terminus, Chinhoyi while in the company of two unidentified men.
The trio spotted a team of police officers who were on routine patrol and started running away prompting the officers to pursue them.
Blessing was apprehended during the chase while her colleagues vanished into the darkness.
She was taken to Chemagamba Police Station where she was charged for breaching the on-going curfew meant to curtail the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Said Musimwa of Justice for Children (JCT), “JCT is concerned about how children’s rights are being violated under the name of enforcing lockdown regulations by justice players.
“Section 81 of the Zimbabwe Constitution provides for the protection of children including adequate protection by the courts with the High Court being the upper guardian.
“Further in all matters concerning children, imprisonment should be used as a last resort whilst also taking into consideration the best interests of the child. Sentencing a juvenile to pay $15 000 fine, therefore, fails to take into cognisance both the minority and financial incapacity of a child.”