Zimbabwe: MDC Activists Caged for January Protests

18 November 2019

A Bulawayo Magistrate last week convicted prominent Bulawayo MDC Alliance activist, Josphat Mzaca Ngulube (34) and three other people on charges of burning cars and breaking several windows to a house belonging to former Zanu PF women's league chairperson Eva Bitu, during the violent January protests.

Magistrate Tinashe Tashaya convicted Ngulube, Fortune Masuku (29), Melusi Moyo (32) and Otilia Sibanda (34) for malicious damage to property.

Magistrate Tashaya remanded the four in custody pending sentence and mitigation set for Monday. The other accused person Lavenda Moyo (66) was acquitted due to lack of evidence linking him to the crime.

In passing his judgment, Magistrate Tashaya dismissed the accused's evidence saying it lacked consistency and were outweighed by testimonies given by State witnesses.

Ngulube had provided a video where he was attending a funeral on the day the offence was committed as evidence but the Magistrate dismissed the evidence saying it did not fully exonerate him.

"Although it is undisputed that on the day in question Ngulube was attending a funeral in Sizinda, the time factor is not fully accounted for. The funeral proceedings were supposed to commence at 7am but delayed and only started around 10am. There is nothing that was brought before this court to show what accused person was doing in between time.

"This evidence is important because the alleged offense, according to State witnesses, occurred between 7am 10am. Therefore the said funeral could not have stopped the accused person from partaking in the public violence," said Tashaya.

Appearing for the State, Jetro Mada told the court that on 14 January at about 7 am, the accused persons, acting in common purpose with 100 others, unlawfully blocked the free movement of traffic at an intersection along Sizinda Road and Nketa Drive.

Mada told the court that the mob accused Bitu of solely benefiting from taxpayers' money and pushed her Ford Ranger out of the yard where they set it alight.

"Accused persons went back into the yard where they had left a Nissan NP300 and a Toyota Vitz. They set alight the Nissan whose flames destroyed part of the Vitz. The Ford Ranger and Nissan NP300 were burnt beyond repair," said Mada.

Mada said the cars have a total value of US$95 000.

Last month another Bulawayo Magistrate Lizwe Jamela acquitted Ngulube over charges of contravening the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).

Ngulube, who contested last year's parliamentary elections as an independent candidate in Bulawayo South Constituency before joining the MDC early this year was facing charges of convening a meeting without notifying relevant authorities.

In acquitting Ngulube, Jamela ruled that the evidence led by the State falls short of the threshold of establishing a prima facie case.

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