By Mandla Tshuma and Senzeni Ncube
Bulawayo magistrate Tavengwa Sangster has sentenced two Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) members (Mongameli Mlotshwa and Welcome Moyo) to 36 months in prison while giving seven others a jail term of 33 months each.
The nine were arrested in March last year after they staged a protest at Bulawayo Central Police Station, demanding the release of MRP president Mqondisi Moyo following a raid at his home.
They include two women, MRP women’s National League Chairperson Sibongile Banda and Busi Moyo. The other members are the Council of Elders representative -Tinos Nkomo, MRP Youth Chairperson, Mongameli Mlotshwa including his team – Livson Ncube, Maxwell Nkosi, Welcome Moyo, Nkosilathi Ncube, and Ackim Ndebele.
The nine were represented by Kwanele Nxumalo and Prince Bhutshe.
MRP president Mqondisi Moyo confirmed the sentencing of the nine.
“Yes, it is true,” He said.
“They have been sentenced. Mongameli Mlotshwa and Welcome Moyo have been sentenced to 36 months, which is three years, then the other seven, 33 months, which is two years and nine months.”
A party vehicle which was seized by the police during the protests was also forfeited to the state.
He said they were considering making an appeal at the High Court.
“We will try to make a High Court application because we feel the case has not been properly handled,” said Moyo.
“Firstly these people have been on bail for the past one year and last week without the court revoking that bail all of a sudden they were remanded in custody knowing that they want to sentence them. We feel their bail rights were infringed because one, they never violated the bail conditions which they had been given.”
He explained further: “The other thing was that every time there were Court proceedings there would be a strong military and police presence, including dogs and horses. So to us that resembles a war situation. We are wondering what makes the government panic about just a crime of people who went to Central Police to ask whatever they wanted to ask.”
He said they felt their sentences were not justified.
“Seven of the accused were the first offenders, so why would they give them all almost a similar sentence,” queried Moyo.
“We are however not shocked about this as it is clear that our cases are political and are determined in Harare. Yesterday, it was as if they were going to be given community service. We were told there was a mix-up of papers but today they were sentenced.”
He added: “That will never stop us from fighting for self-determination because it shows that we are second-class citizens in this country. We will not be deterred by the ruling, we will go ahead and pursue whatever we are pursuing.”
Nxumalo, one of their lawyers said they would have to first go through the Court papers before deciding on whether to appeal against the magistrate’s decision.