Zimbabwe: Evan Mawarire, ZCTU President Peter Mutasa Off the Hook

Pastor Evan Mawarire arrives at the court in Harare (file photo).
21 November 2019

Top government critic Evan Mawarire and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa, arrested in January this year on charges of plotting to overthrow President Emmerson Mnangagwa are now off the hook after the state dropped treason charges laid against them.

The development by the State, shocked the court and defense lawyers.

The state will now proceed by way of summons against Mutasa and Pastor Mawarire.

Mawarire and Mutasa's arrest followed a video they posted on social media calling on citizens to stay away from their work places in protest over government's decision to increase the price of fuel.

Human rights and top lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, who was representing Mawarire had previously challenged his continued placement on remand as improper as his alleged conduct did not constitute a crime.

"If a man of God says 'stay at home for the next three days and don't be violent', how does that constitute a crime?" said Mtetwa in her submissions before magistrate Lucy Mungwari.

"The doctors have also been saying 'we want US currency', the teachers, everybody including businesses have been saying address economic challenges. Is that a crime?"

Mtetwa said if the courts were to find Mawarire's conduct meriting a criminal charge and trial, then everyone in Zimbabwe must be arrested on similar allegations.

According to the State, on January 14, 2019, Mawarire, acting in connivance with the ZCTU president Peter Mutasa, recorded and published a video calling on Zimbabweans to boycott work while also encouraging civil disobedience.

The video went viral on social media platforms which include Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The State claims the contents of the video were meant to subvert a constitutional government.

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