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January protests: Freedom for MDC subversion accused Mbizo, Redcliff MPs

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By Midlands Correspondent

TWO MDC MPs accused of subversion for planning and coordinating the violent January protests triggered by a 150% fuel price increase have been acquitted.

Kwekwe Magistrate Story Rushambwa on Friday acquitted Mbizo constituency lawmaker Settlement Chikwinya and his Redcliff counterpart Lloyd Mukapiko on all charges.

“The accused have been discharged of both charges. It is clear the two accused were not together at the said time.

“The first defence was corroborated by the witnesses. There was also a delay in the reporting of the case. The witnesses passed the police station twice but they didn’t report nor did they give reason on why they didn’t report the matter on time,” said Rushwambwa.

MDC supporters who had thronged the court for judgment broke into songs and dance soon after Rushwambwa delivered his judgment.

The legislators’ stood accused of subverting a constitutionally elected government and inciting public violence in Kwekwe after they allegedly organised the anti-fuel increase protests that turned deadly leaving 17 people dead at the hands of the military.

Mukapiko and Chikwinya were arrested and kept in remand prison for 19 days in the aftermath of the crackdown that followed the protests. They were only granted bail by the Bulawayo High Court.

State witnesses claimed the two MPs were spotted in central Kwekwe were they addressed a predominantly MDC gathering and incited the crowd to engage in public violence on 14 January.

The duo’s lawyer Wellington Davira of Gundu and Pamucheche Legal Practitioners said his clients were acquitted after the State failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

“The MPs were acquitted of the charges they were facing. They were facing charges of public violence on the alternative inciting public violence so both of them were acquitted. After the State failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” Davira said.

At the close of the State case Magistrate Rushambwa in passing judgment indicated the State had failed to provide a solid case.

The legislators denied causing or participating in public violence insisting that the charges were politically motivated.

Chikwinya said he was at a local pub when the commotion transpired and indicated that the State witnesses had been his political adversaries since 2000 while Mukapiko said he had been at the Vehicle Inspection Department depot.