By A Correspondent| Chiredzi Magistrate Vimbai Mtukwa on Monday 4 December 2023 acquitted eight Chiredzi residents, who had been on trial for allegedly contravening the provisions of the Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPO) Act, a repressive piece of legislation, which law enforcement agents have been abusing to ban opposition political party campaign rallies.
Farai Chauke, a 42 year-old lawyer, of Chauke and Associates Legal Practitioners, who is based in Chiredzi in Masvingo province, had been on trial together with eight Chiredzi residents after they were arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police officers on Wednesday 5 July 2023.
Chauke was arrested together with seven Chiredzi residents namely Mollen Shonhai aged 27 years, Gladmore Gungubu aged 18 years, Kudzai Madyira aged 27 years, Charles Mungate aged 50 years, Lloyd Mushari aged 26 years, Agrippa Dhambureni aged 29 years and Simon Hlomani aged 56 years, when ZRP officers threw teargas canisters at some opposition Citizens Coalition for Change Zimbabwe (CCCZ) political party supporters, who were reportedly gathered outside Tshovani Stadium in Chiredzi in Masvingo province.
Chauke, Shonhai, Gungubu, Madyira, Mungate, Mushari, Dhambureni and Hlomani, were charged with failure to comply with conditions under which a meeting is authorised as defined in section 8(ii) of the MOPO Act.
During trial at Chiredzi Magistrates Court, prosecutors alleged that the eight Chiredzi residents refused to comply with an order in which they were told to disperse from Tshovani Stadium after law enforcement agents prohibited CCCZ political party from holding a campaign rally which had been scheduled for Wednesday 5 July 2023.
Prosecutors claimed that Chauke, Shonhai, Gungubu, Madyira, Mungate, Mushari, Dhambureni and Hlomani, who were represented by Ross Chavi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, started singing some political songs and threw stones towards ZRP officers after being told to disperse.
But on Monday 4 November 2023, Magistrate Mtukwa acquitted the eight residents after discharging them at the close of the prosecution case.
In acquitting the eight residents, Magistrate Mtukwa ruled that Chauke, Shonhai, Gungubu, Madyira, Mungate, Mushari, Dhambureni and Hlomani had been apprehended during a dragnet arrest as state witnesses could not recognise and describe the participation of the accused persons in the alleged commission of the offence.