ZCTU anti-tax protest leaders freed

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By Mary Maruvinga

SEVEN Zimbabwe Congress for Trade Union (ZCTU) leaders, arrested Thursday for defying a police ban on planned anti-tax demonstrations, were freed Saturday on $50 bail each.

ZCTU president Peter Mutasa, secretary general Japhet Moyo and five others were released pending trial.

Among other conditions, the seven were ordered to surrender their passports to court authorities, report once a week at the police and not to interfere with witnesses.

This is after they appeared before Harare magistrate Nyasha Vhitorini after spending two nights in police custody.

“Bail is a fundamental right to all accused persons. The state did not proffer any compelling reasons to deny the accused bail. As such, bail is hereby granted…” ruled Vhitorini.

They will be back in court on 27 October.

The group faces a charge of participating in a gathering “with intent to cause public violence alternatively breaching of peace or bigotry as defined in Section 37 of the Criminal Codification and Reform Act”.

They were seized by police Thursday after they gathered near ZCTU offices intending to demonstrate against the imposition of a 2 percent tax on all electronic transfers imposed by the Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube some two weeks ago, among other reasons.

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

Police cited a blanket ban on public gatherings because of the current cholera outbreak which has been more intense within Harare.

The firebrand labour group is adamant it was improper for authorities to deny them their constitutionally guaranteed right to express themselves peacefully.

ZCTU also slams police for alleged double standards after the law enforcement agents have allowed President Emmerson Mnangagwa to preside over graduation ceremonies attracting thousands while blocking public demonstrations on the ostensible attempt to prevent the spread of the epidemic.