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Rebellious state charges MMPZ employees with insulting Mugabe and vetoes MMPZ employees' bail order
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

December 09, 2011

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemns the malicious and unwarranted actions of the State in vetoing a bail order granted on Friday 9 December 2011 in favour of two Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) employees, Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda and MMPZ member, Gilbert Mabusa.

December, Chimhanda and Mabusa, who are accused of contravening some provisions of the draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act were granted $50 bail each by Gwanda Magistrate Douglas Zvenyika with no reporting conditions.

But State prosecutor Blessing Gundani, invoked the notorious Section 121 of the Criminal Evidence and Procedure Act (CPEA) to suspend the bail order which had been granted to December, Chimhanda and Mabusa. The intransigent invocation of Section 121 of the CPEA suspends the bail order for seven days pending the filing of an appeal by the State in the High Court.

Surprisingly, on Friday 9 December 2011, the State added an alternative charge of undermining authority of or insulting President Robert Mugabe against the MMPZ officials in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act without elaborating how the trio committed the offence.

December, Chimhanda and Mabusa, who are represented by ZLHR member lawyers Kossam Ncube, Lison Ncube and Rose Hanzi were already charged with contravening section 25(1) (b) of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), for allegedly 'participating in a gathering without seeking authority from the regulating authority'. They are also accused of contravening section 37(1) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, by 'distributing material that is likely to provoke a breach of peace' when they were arrested on Monday 5 December 2011.

ZLHR is perturbed by the malicious and obdurate actions of the State in continuing to unnecessarily infringe upon the fundamental right to liberty of the MMPZ employees by bringing up Section 121 of the CPEA. This is despite the fact that the constitutionality of Section 121 of the CPEA is being challenged in numerous cases which are yet to be heard by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe.

The frequent abuse of this draconian piece of legislation is being used to the prejudice of suspects as prosecutors are clearly usurping the powers of the judiciary who in this case had safeguarded the fundamental right to liberty of December, Chimhanda and Mabusa. The pressing of a new charge against the MMPZ officials is sufficient confirmation that the State is determined to deprive these human rights defenders of their liberty and keep them in detention at all costs.

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