RIGHTS activist and #ThisFlag founder Evan Mawarire, who is accused of subverting a constitutionally-elected government after he supported calls for a stayaway to protest against fuel price increases, yesterday challenged his placement on remand, saying he had committed no offence.
Mawarire (41), who is represented by prominent human rights lawyers led by Beatrice Mtetwa, was arrested on Wednesday and was initially charged with inciting public violence.
But yesterday, he appeared before Harare magistrate Lucy Mungwari charged with treason, which attracts up to 20 years imprisonment. He was remanded him in custody to today for the State’s response to his application challenging placement on remand.
The State, represented by Mirirai Shumba, told the court that the lower court had no jurisdiction to grant Mawarire bail on the charges he was facing, and asked that he be remanded in custody to January 31.
But Mtetwa challenged the placement on remand, saying her client committed no offence when he asked the public to stayaway and not engage in acts of violence.
“There is no legal basis to place the accused person on remand. If you peruse the allegations on the State outline Your Worship, there are no characteristics of an offence. It would be a travesty of justice to place the accused on remand,” Mtetwa told court.
“If a man of God says stay at home and do not engage in acts of violence, how can that constitute a crime? A call for government to address economic challenges cannot be a crime, Your Worship.
“Zimbabweans are working to earn bond notes to buy fuel and nothing else. If you put the accused person on remand Your Worship, you will be working even at nights because all Zimbabweans are calling for the removal of bond notes.”
Mtetwa said the court must release Mawarire from the malicious prosecution promptly and unconditionally because he did not commit any offence.
She further said the court must view the video which forms the basis of the allegations, but the State asked for postponement, saying they needed to also view the video to come up with a proper response.
Mungwari remanded the matter to today.
The State alleges that on January 13 this year, Mawarire and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa recorded a video for the Zimbabwean populace which went viral on social media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook, which have a world coverage.
It said contents on the video were meant to subvert a constitutional government in that Mawarire allegedly called for boycott from reporting for duty and encouraging resistance to laws.
Meanwhile, armed men on Tuesday night attacked former Zanu PF Harare South MP Shadreck Mashayamombe’s building in the central business district, before storming his Belvedere house, where they walked away with household goods that include television sets, radios and clothes.
Nothing was taken from his town building, but a security guard manning the property was assaulted and is currently receiving medical treatment.
Mashayamombe, who is now in hiding, said he suspected Zanu PF supporters, with the assistance of some elements in the military, were behind the attacks.