Court frees activists accused of public violence plot

Harare magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti-Guwuriro has set free two pro-democracy campaigners who had been on trial on charges of promoting public violence after they were arrested for allegedly protesting against the holding of public hearings for some proposed constitutional amendments.

Namatai Kwekweza and Esther Vongai Zimudzi were arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers on Friday 19 June 2020 and charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace, or bigotry as defined in section 37(1)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Kwekweza and Zimudzi, who were represented by Rudo Bere and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, were accused of gathering at New Government Complex in Harare, where they intended to hand over a petition to Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi in which they were protesting against the holding of some public hearings into proposed amendments to the Constitution.

Prosecutors claimed that Kwekweza, who is a member of WeLead Organisation for Young People and Zimudzi, who is a member of Section 20 Organisation, displayed placards which read; “A senseless charade in the name of the Constitution Amendment No. 2 Bill public hearing, Minister you are out of order”; “!!!#Ngazvitangidzwe!!!”; “3.3 million Zimbabweans were consulted about the Constitution in 2013, 94.4% voted yes”; “Don’t amend the Constitution until you consult 3.3 million Zimbabweans”; “#Stop cosmetic Constitutions” and “Don’t take advantage of COVID-19”.

The prosecutors charged that Kwekweza and Zimudzi’s actions were abusive, insulting and intended to provoke the breach of peace.

However, Magistrate Muchuchutu-Guwuriro on Friday 17 September 2021 set free Kwekweza and Zimudzi after their lawyers applied for discharge at the close of the State case.

Magistrate Muchuchuti-Guwuriro ruled that the State failed to prove a prima facie case against the duo and also stated that the placards which they allegedly held during the protest were not produced in court to show that a crime was committed. ZLHR