CLOSE to 30 suspected hooligans have so far appeared in Bulawayo courts over allegations of disturbing public order and looting after protests that rocked the city following the nationwide shutdown.
The shutdown was motivated by the recent fuel hikes and looming commodity price hikes, which sparked demonstrations.
25 suspects appeared separately at the Tredgold and Western Commonage Magistrates’ courts Wednesday.
Among the arrested included an 11 year old, two 13 year olds, a 16 year old and a 17 year old facing public violence charges.
These juveniles were remanded out of custody, handed over to their parents and guardians to appear in court on Monday.
Four other suspects appeared this Thursday before Bulawayo magistrate Tinashe Tashaya and were denied bail.
The four accused Kelvin Dube (18) Thintimpi Masotsha (21), Archford Tshuma (31) and an unidentified youth are facing charges ranging from malicious damage to property, public violence, disorderly conduct at a public place, unlawful entry and theft.
Public Prosecutor, Mufaro Mageza, told the court that the four were arrested on the scene, armed with stones, smashing motor vehicles and windscreens, having barricaded roads.
“The state fears that if released on bail, the accused may endanger peoples’ lives since violence is ongoing. They may undermine justice,” he said.
Mageza added it was not important to talk about the merits of the case as that would be dealt with once trial starts.
“This is just a bail application and police should not be called to give evidence. The law is clear, the accused will disturb public order undermine peace. They may be overexcited since the shutdown is still on, they are likely to join others and police are still doing their duty to arrest others,” he said.
Defense lawyer, Tinashe Runganga of Tanaka Law Chambers under the instruction of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyers, made an effort to squash the prosecution’s case and argued that bail should be granted.
He said the accused must be released unconditionally unless there are compelling reasons to justify their continued detention.
“The state should provide compelling reasons, which are outside the case.”
He cited a case that was ruled by Judge Nicholas Mathonsi where he explained fully what the compelling reasons are.
“Just because they were arrested on the scene that does not justify them reasons to deny them bail. The state did not say who did what but just laid a blanket cover and it is just speculation. I am happy to note that the state said the violence is ongoing which means it is clear that these are not the culprits. Police arrested innocent people the real culprits are out there. The reason is these disturbances are still on, roads are blocked and this evidence clearly exonerates the accused,” the defense said.
Runganga noted bail had been granted in other serious cases such as murder and other criminal cases such as that of the State versus Chivayo where amounts ranging between $2million and $5million were involved but bail was granted.
“The state did not mention any fear of absconding and as such there’s no reason for them to abscond
The accused are facing trivial matters, if they are convicted they are likely to be fined or given community service. The state has to justify why the accused should face continued detention,” he said.
He cited previous cases where the presumption of innocence still operates in favour for the accused so it stands that these accused should be seen as innocent.
“The accused were arrested at 9pm how were they identified what exactly where they were doing. In 1985 State versus Benetta and as written in law reports the discretion to grant bail is rested on the court, which must consider the interest of justice at same time. It must not frustrate the liberty of the accused. How will the accused disturb peace loving citizens? It’s all speculation to the court. The state did not even given evidence. These accused were walking, are also victims of violence and also lost their valuables. It is surprising why you were arrested them as police failed to arrest real culprits. I pray the accused are granted $50 they will not interfere with state witnesses,” he said.
However, the accused have been remanded in court to Monday.