NINE activists from the Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) were sentenced to varying jail terms when they appeared before Bulawayo magistrate, Mr Tawengwa Sangster.
The nine who had pleaded not guilty were sentenced to jail terms of between 33 and 36 months on Friday, after they were found guilty of public violence as defined in section 36 (1)(a) of the of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
The nine convicted and sentenced MRP activists are Welcome Moyo (34) of Four Winds, Mongameli Mlotshwa (35) of Magwegwe West, Maxwell Nkosi (32) of Pumula East, Levison Ncube (62) of Woodville, Nkosinathi Ncube (42) of Cowdray Park, Ackim Ndebele (34) of Cowdray Park, Sibongile Banda (57) of Old Luveve, Busi Moyo (52) of Cowdray Park, and Tinos Nkomo (73) from Chief Maduna’s Skuta area of Filabusi.
Banda, Busi Moyo, Nkomo, Ncube, Ndebele, Nkosinathi and Maxwell Nkosi were each sentenced to 33 months in prison while Mlotshwa and Welcome Moyo were each slapped with 36-month prison terms.
Mlotshwa and Moyo are repeat offenders with one having previously been convicted of assault and the other of public violence.
The nine were part of a crowd of MRP supporters who stormed Bulawayo Central Police Station on March 10, 2021 protesting the alleged harassment of their leader Mqondisi Moyo by State security agents.
During the trial, the State represented by prosecutor, Portia Mashazhu alleged that on arrival at the police station on the morning in question, the activists, travelling in a white truck branded with MRP’s logos and carrying approximately 20 people alighted from the vehicle singing and dancing at the police station’s driveway entrance.
It was further alleged that the MRP-branded vehicle was loaded with knobkerries, stones, a small axe, sticks and used tyres.
The activists were singing and chanting in iSiNdebele, “Sifuna uMoyo upresident wethu (we want Moyo our president) before they began burning tyres in front of the police station and throwing stones at the building and police officers who were trying to calm the situation and disperse them.
The crowd was chanting anti-Government songs and burning tyres, while blocking the driveway into the police station.
The activists are said to have taken tyres from their vehicle and proceeded to barricade Fife Street from the northern and southern sides, effectively placing the station within their barricade and began throwing stones at the charge office entrance.
They then took weapons from their vehicle and attacked police officers who were trying to address them. After almost 30 minutes with the activists refusing to disperse, police then used riot guns to disperse the crowd.
The truck was impounded by the police while missiles, knobkerries, 750ml of liquor thinners, stones, a small axe, sticks and used tyres were also recovered as exhibits.
In their defence, the nine contended that “there was no common purpose to cause public violence”. They also contended that Moyo, Mlotshwa and Ncube had heard that their president’s home had been visited by men dressed in police uniforms.
The trio contended that they resolved to go and enquire from the Law and Order section of the police force at Bulawayo Central Police Station.
The trio argued that they were unarmed and had no plans of causing public violence.
The trio also argued that after having held discussions with various named members of the police force, they were invited to look in the detention cells to see if indeed their president was detained after which they returned to the office of the Law and Order section.
It is at this point that the trio contends they heard singing and chanting from outside the station.
The nine claimed to have only met after their arrest suggesting that their visits to Bulawayo Central Police Station were unco-ordinated and not meant to cause public violence.