By Tarisai Machakaire
Anti-President Robert Mugabe cleric Phillip Mugadza claimed the State was trivialising him for exercising his constitutional right to protest, as his trial on criminal nuisance charges kicked off yesterday.
Mugadza appeared before Harare magistrate Blessing Murwisi to answer to the charges emanating from an incident when he allegedly staged a one-man protest against 93-year-old Mugabe’s government by padlocking himself to iron rails at the Africa Unity Square in the Harare CBD.
His lawyer, Gift Mtisi, argued that the Kariba-based Remnant Church leader was exercising his rights as enshrined in Section 60 of the Constitution.
Mtisi quoted the Section arguing Mugadza had the constitutional right “ . . . to practice and propagate, give expression and opinion, or religious belief either alone or with others, in private or in public . . .”
Prosecutor Molleen Murozvi-Sibanda led evidence from one of the arresting details, Carswell Chinyundo, who claimed that Mugadza caused a scene during his demonstration.
“I was in Africa Unity Square conducting my duties with eight other police officers when we realised that people were beginning to gather. We advanced to the scene and found the accused person chained and padlocked to the iron rails,” he said.
“He began shouting that he was in bondage in his own country and we immediately initiated arrest.”
However, Mtisi argued that the matter should not have been brought before a court, as there was no element of criminal nuisance on Mugadza’s part.
He said none of the members of the public had complained about the man of cloth’s conduct to warrant charges of criminal nuisance.
According to Murozvi-Sibanda, Mugadza disturbed normal flow of business that day because a crowd had started to gather around him.
Murozvi-Sibanda alleged that on November 22 at around 4pm, police officers from the reaction group were on patrol at African Unity Square.
They reportedly heard the accused person shouting on top of his voice disturbing people who passed by the park.
The officers proceeded to where Mugadza was standing and noticed that he had chained and padlocked himself to fencing rails at Africa Unity Square.
It is further alleged that Mugadza had positioned himself directly opposite Parliament building entrance along Nelson Mandela.
The court heard that Mugadza annoyed Parliament employees and other members of the public.
He was subsequently arrested and taken to Harare Central Police Station after being advised of his charge.
The State intends to produce the chain and padlock used by Mugadza as exhibits