Violence accused ZCTU leaders freed

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By Mary Taruvinga

SEVEN Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders have been found not guilty on charges of trying to incite public violence during a foiled anti-tax demonstration last year.

They are union president Peter Mutasa, secretary general Japhet Moyo, Simon Mutasa, Ezekiel Matema, Munashe Chirovamari, Benice Maluleke and Priscilla John.

They were accused of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence in October last year.

But Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa ruled that the State’s case against the main labour group’s leaders was very weak.

“The defence managed to prove that the accused did not gather with an intent to incite public violence but that they intended to embark on a peaceful demonstration,” ruled the magistrate.

“Also important to note is that no one among the accused was spotted holding a placard and they did not disturb free movement of people as alleged.

“It has also emerged from the police testimonies that it was not any one of them who fired missiles or threw bricks but street kids who were close by. No one of the accused was seen trying to be violent. As such, all the accused are hereby found not guilty and acquitted at the close of State case,” said the magistrate.

The group was represented by top human rights lawyer, Alec Muchadehama while Shambidzeni Fungura stood for the State.

Mutasa and the other unionists were seized by police last year after they gathered near the ZCTU offices intending to demonstrate against the imposition of a 2 percent tax on all electronic transfers by Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube among other reasons.

They were arrested after they had insisted on proceeding with countrywide demonstrations which had been banned by police days earlier.

Police had cited a blanket ban on public gatherings because of cholera which had claimed more than 50 lives across the country at the time.

It was the firebrand labour group’s contention that it was improper for authorities to deny members their constitutionally guaranteed right to express themselves peacefully.