According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), two people were arrested over “offensive” comments that they made about last Friday’s anti-sanctions march.
They were charged with undermining police authority and defeating or obstructing the course of justice. Below is a full statement by ZLHR:
TWO people were on Monday 28 October 2019 set free after they were arrested and charged with undermining police authority and defeating or obstructing the course of justice for allegedly passing on some offensive comments about the anti-sanction march organised by the government last week.
ZRP officers arrested Charles Ngwena, the Councillor for Ward 4 in Marondera Central constituency and Paul Chikuni, a municipal police officer employed by Marondera Municipality on Saturday 26 October 2019 and charged them with undermining police authority as defined in Section 177(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act or alternatively with defeating or obstructing the course of justice as defined in Section 184(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Prosecutors told Marondera Magistrate Patience Chirimo that Ngwena and Chikuni, who were represented by Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, undermined police authority when he questioned why the ZRP officers were arresting some vendors who were struggling to make ends and yet they were not bothered about apprehending President Emmerson Mnangagwa whose government organised an anti-sanctions protest last week.
Ngwena reportedly uttered the following words; “Mapurisa munopenga munosunga vanhu vanotambura endai munosunga Emmerson ari busy kuita ma anti-sanctions” which was translated to mean “Police you are mad. You are arresting poor people. Go and arrest Emmerson who is organising anti-sanctions”.
On the charge of defeating or obstructing the course of justice, prosecutors accused Ngwena and Chikuni of hindering three ZRP officers from executing their duties when they grabbed a pushcart containing some bananas and which belongs to Patrick Chabvata, a vendor and pushed it away.
The incident reportedly took place near Marondera Municipality offices as the ZRP officers were escorting Chabvata to Marondera Police Station after arresting him for illegal vending.
Prosecutors claimed that an altercation ensued between Ngwena, Chikuni and the three police officers and this attracted members of the public who gathered around the scene resulting in the law enforcement agents leaving the scene fearing for their safety.
Ngwena and Chikuni, prosecutors charged, had no right to act in the manner they did.
Magistrate Chirimo granted $100 bail each to Ngwena and Chikuni and ordered them to continue residing at their given residential addresses and not to interfere with State witnesses until the matter is finalised.
The duo returns to court on Monday 11 November 2019, where their trial is expected to commence.