HARARE — Tajamuka Sesijikile leader Promise Mkwananzi, freelance journalist James Jemwa and 68 other activists were arraigned before a Harare magistrate on Saturday on charges of public violence.
Mkwananzi and Bruce Usvisvo were charged in connection with the torching of a police vehicle and another one belonging to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation during protests held last Thursday that were organised by the youth wing of the MDC led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Harare magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe dismissed their application for refusal of remand saying there was enough evidence linking them to the offence.
This followed an application filed by their lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara who submitted that there was no reasonable suspicion that the two activists committed the offence.
Bhatasara argued that being alleged members of Tajamuka Sesijikile Campaign alone was not enough to warrant their placement on remand.
But state prosecutor, Michael Reza, argued that those were matters that should be raised at the trial stage.
They were remanded in custody to Monday for bail consideration.
Some Zimbabweans attending a court case in which 67 activists are facing charges of engaging in alleged violent activities.
At the same time, Jemwa and others were also remanded to the same date on allegations of public violence stemming from protests held in Harare on Friday staged by opposition parties that were demanding key electoral reforms.
In both cases, the defense teams complained that their clients were not treated properly by the police.
Bhatasara claimed that Mkwananzi’s mobile phone was perused without his consent in violation of the constitution.
Jeremiah Bhamu, who represented Jemwa and others, complained that the journalist’s phone, press card and video camera were confiscated from him by suspected Zanu PF activists who seized him during the protests while he was on duty, forcibly took him to the ruling party’s headquarters where they allegedly severely assaulted him before handing him over to the police.
Jemwa’s face was swollen and his hand was completely dysfunctional, Bhamu told the magistrate.
Bhamu said most of the arrests were tantamount to kidnapping. Other activists were allegedly arrested in the same way while some were picked up from their various work stations in what the defense team described as dragnet arrests.
The court also heard that some elderly suspects were ordered by the police to have sex in the full glare of other accused and were severely assaulted when they refused. Magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe ordered the police to investigate the complaints raised and present a report at the next remand date.
The magistrate also ordered the prisons depart to ensure that those injured had access to medical facilities of the suspects’ choice.