17 March 2017

Zimbabwe: Mawarire Freedom Bid Hits Snag

Photo: Nigel Zhuwaki
Evan Mawarire addresses students in Stellenbosch (file photo).

A Harare magistrate yesterday dismissed an application for refusal of further remand by self-proclaimed pastor Evan Mawarire of the shadowy #ThisFlag campaign.

Mawarire's bid for freedom hit a brick wall after magistrate Ms Barbra Chimboza ruled that he should remain on remand pending trial. Mawarire is facing allegations of subverting a constitutionally-elected Government or alternatively inciting public violence and was further remanded to April 21.

In dismissing the application, Ms Chimboza said Mawarire had been on remand for less than two months, hence that period was not unreasonable.

Mawarire had also applied to have his bail conditions altered, but Ms Chimboza dismissed the application and advised him to make the application at the High Court, since he was granted bail there.

In his application through his lawyer Mr Harrison Nkomo, Mawarire accused the State of frustrating him by failing to give him a trial date.

Mr Nkomo said, "The last time we appeared in this court, the State told us that investigations would be complete by February 28, but it is surprising that 16 days down the line we have not been updated of the development of the matter.

"State is failing to explain why they are failing to provide the accused with a trial date.

"The State is just trying to frustrate these proceedings and prejudice the accused person.

"If the application for further remand refusal is not successful, may the court consider scraping the reporting conditions and giving Mawarire his passport back.

"He is abandoning his day-to-day duties as he is reporting twice a week to the police.

"Your Worship, it is our prayer that his passport should be returned to allow him to attend to his family."

The prosecutor Mr Sebastian Mutizirwa opposed the application and told the court that investigations were complete, but the docket had been sent to the Prosecutor-General's Office for perusal hence the delay in providing a trial date.

He argued that Mawarire's application for refusal of further remand was misplaced because he had only been on remand for a month.

"I have taken a closer look at the State papers and there is nowhere indicating that accused would be given a trial date today," he said.

"The accused person should also not expect this court to vary his bail conditions because it was granted by the High Court.

"They must approach the High Court and seek that kind of relief."

It is the State's case that between July 13 and December last year, Mawarire went to print and electronic media inciting Zimbabweans to revolt against the constitutionally-elected Government. He allegedly urged people not to go to work and they took hid and engaged in violent demonstrations.

It is further alleged that on September 15, 2016 Mawarire further called for Zimbabweans in America and all over the world to converge in New York and confront President Mugabe, who was attending the United Nations General Assembly.

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