TWO MDC Alliance MPs and 16 other people were arrested and appeared at the Gweru magistrates’ court yesterday.They were denied bail on charges of inciting and participating in public violence.
Amos Chibaya, the MDC Alliance organising secretary who is the MP for Mkoba, Livingstone Chiminya, the opposition party’s Chiwundura MP who is also the Midlands provincial youth chairperson and 16 other people were arrested over the violence that led to the looting of shops and bars in Gweru on Tuesday.
Chibaya and five other people appeared before provincial magistrate Ms Charity Maphosa while Chiminya and 11 others appeared before regional magistrate Mrs Phathekile Msipa.
Chibaya and Chiminya are facing one count each of inciting violence while the other people who appeared before the two magistrates including Titus Chumunya, Bongani Sibanda, Message Nerongo, Lazurus Matariro, Mavis Chakunga, Brenda Madzire are facing a count each of public violence.
Chibaya’s lawyer Mr Reginald Chidawanyika made an application for bail pending trial which was opposed by the State.
In her bail application ruling, Ms Maphosa said the country and Gweru in particular had not yet returned to normalcy.
She remanded Chibaya in custody to today for trial while the other five were remanded in custody to January 22.
“The accused person after allegedly addressing the youths drove them to areas where they committed acts of public violence and therefore the accused is remanded in custody to tomorrow (today) for trial,” she said.
“The other five are remanded in custody to January 22.”
On the other hand Mrs Msipa also denied Chiminya bail after an application by the accused lawyer Mr Brian Dube.
She said she was going to deal with the bail application for the other people today.
“The environment is still volatile, you are alleged to have incited people in Gweru to participate in criminal activities and things are not yet 100 percent normal.
Releasing him is not in the best interest of the public. We need to protect the people from such acts. The public will lose confidence in the judiciary and bail is denied,” she said.
The other 11 people were also denied bail to January 22.
Chibaya and Chiminya, the court heard, allegedly held a meetings at their respective houses in Mkoba 13 and 14 on January 13 and incited MDC-Alliance youths to go onto the streets of Gweru to prevent the general public from going to work.
It is alleged that youths gangs blocked Hamutyinei and Bristol roads in Mkoba which lead to the city centre, Matobo Road in Mtapa leading to town, using logs, stones and burning tyres, disrupting free movement of vehicles and the general public.
They allegedly went to Choppies supermarket in Mkoba 6 and looted groceries worth $10 000, Samanyanga shop at Mkoba 10 and looted various groceries valued at $2 500, among other shops.
Meanwhile, 18 people were arraigned before a Gokwe Magistrate for barricading roads, vandalising property and looting of shops including the GMB Gokwe depot as part of the protests.
Tonderai Rukato (36), Chengetai Takuvira (30), Gilbert Francesco (36), Prince Paradza (31), Tatenda Muzenda (18) and thirteen others appeared before Gokwe Magistrate Mr Musaiona Shortgame facing public violence charges.
They were remanded in custody to January 23 for provision of a trial date.
The State led by Mr Michael Mhene opposed bail saying the suspects were facing serious charges and that some of them were of no fixed abode hence they were flight risks.
Mr Solomon Kangembewu who led the defence counsel, had proposed $50 bail for each suspect.
The State alleged that on January 15 at around 1500 hours, the gang, and their accomplices who are still at large, barricaded the Gokwe-Kwekwe road and other roads using rocks and burning tyres.
The suspects, the court heard, ordered shops and tuckshops to close and went on to loot groceries from tuckshops and shops that remained open.
They then proceeded to Choppies where they vandalised the shop after failing to gain entry to loot.
They then proceeded to the Gokwe New Long Distance Bus terminus where they vandalised property and chased away council police.
They proceeded to a ZUPCO depot were they again vandalised the precast wall to gain entrance before stoning stationary buses.
The suspects, the court further heard, proceeded to GMB Gokwe Depot where they looted 154 bags of 50kg mealie-meal and carried them to their various homesteads.
About 28 bags were recovered.
In Bulawayo, 15 more suspected hooligans who are alleged to be part of a mob that unleashed an orgy of violence and mayhem in Bulawayo, burning cars, property and looting shops, appeared in court yesterday.
The accused persons, among them five juveniles aged between 11 and 17 years appeared at Tredgold magistrates’ court.
Enviolator Moyo (34) of Cowdray Park, Clinton Nyathi (20), Phathisani Moyo (42), Elitha Sibanda (22), Constance Ncube (28), Moreen Moyo (32) Wilson Nyathi (18), Sihliselo Ncube (40) Siphathisiwe Nyandeni (46), Thandolwenkosi Moyo (23) and the five minors all from Ngozi Mine appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Ms Sithembiso Ncube charged with public violence.
They were arrested while allegedly trying to break into Richmond Spar to loot groceries.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ lawyers Mr Dixon Abraham and Mr Tinashe Runganga, who represented the accused persons, argued that the reasons for opposing bail by the State were not compelling enough to deny the accused persons bail.
Ms Ncube remanded the 15 accused persons in custody to January 21 for a bail ruling while the juveniles were remanded into the custody of their parents.
The State led by Ms Tafadzwa Mutsambiwa opposed bail, saying releasing them would send a wrong message.
She argued the accused persons were a threat to the safety of the public given that they allegedly participated in civil unrest.
She said if granted bail, the accused persons were likely to continue participating in the violent protests.
Prosecuting, Ms Mutsambiwa said on January 16 at around 7AM, the accused persons connived and armed themselves with stones and iron bars before they allegedly proceeded to Richmond Spar where they intended to loot the shop. They were carrying empty bags.
Upon arrival, they threw stones at security guards manning the supermarket and went on to break the burglar bars on the door so that they could gain entry.
“Local residents teamed up with security guards and fought the accused persons before they alerted police who came and swiftly reacted and arrested them,” said Ms Mutsambiwa.
The accused persons were allegedly part of a mob that staged mass protests dubbed “Zimbabwe National Total Shutdown” and went around looting shops, burning vehicles and private properties and disrupted public order and peace.
The three-day nationwide stay away was called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and other civil society organisations aligned to the MDC Alliance.
The protesters also turned parts of the city’s western suburbs into no-go areas as they set up barricades, makeshift roadblocks, burnt tyres and attacked police officers.
On Wednesday, 25 suspected hooligans appeared separately at Tredgold and Western Commonage magistrates’’ courts facing the same charges.