HARARE magistrate Nyasha Vhitorini Tuesday chastised prosecutors for trying to sneak political issues into the courts when he was presiding over the bail application case by 27 MDC Alliance supporters accused of inciting last week’s post-election protests which claimed six.
Prosecuting, Michael Reza had opposed bail citing what he claimed was the prevailing hostile political situation.
“The state must have indicated what each particular person did. The state, instead bundled all the accused into a group forgetting the court deals with individuals not groups,” the magistrate said.
Reza had told court that he was proceeding with the matter in terms of common purpose doctrine.
The prosecutor said the suspects teamed up to commit public violence. He opposed bail saying that the suspects were likely to re-offend considering that MDC Alliance is still contesting the election outcome.
“Things are not normal out there,” Reza said.
But court ruled otherwise.
“The state is trying to reduce this court into a political ring. The political situation is volatile out there; not in the courts,” ruled the magistrate before he released the 27 on $50 bail coupled with reporting conditions.
In a bid to make sure the suspects remain locked, Reza also tried to bring a police officer to the witness’s stand but the idea backfired.
The lawyers refused to hear the officer’s statement arguing that the state did not inform them of the position prior to court proceedings.
“As court, I’m not impressed with how the state is handling this case. Firstly, this case was postponed at the state’s instance on Saturday. Now the state is shifting and shuffling. You don’t seem to be prepared and you are handling this case unprofessionally, information should be on your fingertips,” the magistrate burst before he dismissed the officer who was already in the witness’s stand.
The suspects are denying the allegations arguing that they were caught in a dragnet arrest and did not even participate in the cited protests which rocked Harare CBD last Wednesday following the MDC’s loss to Zanu PF in the harmonised elections.
The magistrate was told that most of the suspects were caught in crossfire after they had sought refuge at the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House when the violence broke out.
According to the lawyers representing the accused, about five suspects are security officers responsible for guarding the MDC HQ and were on duty when they got arrested.
The court was told that some were employed as general hands by the MDC Alliance and were on duty when the police arrested them a day after the violent protests.
The lawyers told court that the employees agreed to stay at the party’s headquarters after realising it was no longer safe to go outside following shooting incidents by soldiers who had been deployed into the city centre to assist the police contain the protests.
Court also heard that some were polling agents who had just arrived from Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe (UMP) and were submitting returns and collecting food and transport allowances when the shooting started.
However, the state alleges the suspects caused the deaths of six people.
It further alleges that some of the suspects were seen setting cars on fire and evidence will be produced regarding the matter.