By THABANI ZWELIBANZI
A Harare judge on Friday afternoon railed against state prosecutors, accusing them of shoddy investigations, as he released on bail five of the seven activists that are alleged to have plotted to unseat President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Justice Tawanda Chitapi was particularly unimpressed by what he termed the state’s propensity to arrest to investigate rather than investigating first before charging anyone.
Furthermore, Justice Chitapi said the state should respect Chapter 4 of the Constitution on the Bill of Rights and was scathing on what he deemed as the unconstitutional conduct of the police officers who arrested the activists.
In his ruling, Justice Chitapi said there were no compelling reasons not to release on bail George Makoni, Nyasha Frank Mpahlo Gamuchirai Mukura, Tatenda Mombeyarara and Farirai Gumbonzvanda, who were arrested a fortnight ago.
The seven were alleged to have travelled to Maldives, where they were trained by the Centre for Non-Violent Action and Strategies (Canvas) to engage in acts of subversion such as plotting violence and evading arrest.
Justice Chitapi said the state had failed to show that the five had been involved in previous violent protests, while charges that they had been trained in handling small arms were difficult to sustain.
They were all arrested on their return from that country, in a case that has caught the world’s attention.
Justice Chitapi was also impressed by that all the accused returned to the country in spite of obvious risk they would be arrested, saying it showed they were prepared to come back and clear their names.
Justice Chitapi, in his bail ruling, said there was nothing in the workshop’s programme that indicated that the attendees were plotting to unseat the government.
As part of their bail conditions, the five were ordered to pay $1 000 each, not to interfere with state witnesses and to reside at their given addresses until the completion of the case.
They were also ordered to report daily to the police.
There were farcical scenes before the bail ruling commenced in the morning, as state prosecutors failed to attend court, in as yet unexplained circumstances.
This forced the bail ruling to be postponed to 12 pm.
In a related case, Justice Amy Tsanga postponed to Monday, a bail ruling for Stabile Dewa and Beauty Rita Nyamupinga, who are facing similar allegations.