Harare Court dismisses ZCTU leaders’ freedom bid

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By Court Reporter

ZIMBABWE Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders accused of attempts to incite public violence Monday had their court challenge against prosecution dismissed by Harare magistrate, Rumbidzai Mugwagwa who upheld the state’s position that they should answer for the alleged offences.

ZCTU president Peter Mutasa, secretary general Japhet Moyo, as well as top officials Simon Mutasa, Ezekiel Matema, Munashe Chirovamari, Benice Maluleke and Priscilla John last week filed an application to have the charges dismissed while saying the State’s claims were weak.

“It is clear. The accused had gathered in common purpose. They were about to commit a crime,” Mugwagwa said of a ZCTU October attempt to stage demonstrations against government’s 2 percent transfer tax on electronic transfers.,

The union leaders, who are being represented by human rights lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, had argued that they intended to conduct peaceful demonstrations on the day in question.

They also argued that if they really wanted to cause mayhem as alleged, they would have simply gone on the streets and started their demonstrations, but they chose to follow procedure.

“That is why the accused approached the courts for an order allowing the protest to proceed,” Muchadehama said.

The Harare lawyer also said it was impossible for seven people to disturb the movement of people or traffic in the CBD.

However, the State, represented by Charles Muchemwa, opposed the application, arguing that it had no merit.

Muchemwa also submitted that the group was properly charged, and the allegations establish a reasonable suspicion that an offence was about to be committed.

“There is evidence linking them to the offence in the form of the placards that were recovered which had various inscriptions,” Muchemwa said.

The unionists are accused of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence.

They were seized by police two weeks ago after they had gathered in front of the ZCTU’s man offices in Harare intending to demonstrate against the imposition of the government levy.

The workers rights group leaders were arrested after they had insisted on proceeding with countrywide demonstrations which had earlier been banned by police citing the blanket ban on all public gatherings.

But the union leaders are adamant it was improper for authorities to deny them their constitutionally guaranteed right to express themselves peacefully.

The activists had approached the magistrate’s court seeking authority to proceed with the demonstrations when they were arrested.

A judgement was delivered against them going ahead while they were already in police custody.

They will be back in court on November 16.