In a surprising development, the two WOZA members, Trust Moyo and Cynthia Ncube, who were arrested on Monday after a peaceful demonstration calling for an end to politically motivated violence, were taken to trial this afternoon at Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court.
The two had presented themselves to Bulawayo Central Police Station this morning as demanded as part of their conditions of release. They were informed that they would still be charged under Section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘distributing materials likely to cause a breach of the peace’ and the police now had their documentation in order.
On going to court mid-morning, the lawyer was informed that the State wished to fast-track the case and that the trial would begin at 11.15 this morning. Neither the magistrate nor the court interpreter appeared however and the trial was postponed to 2.15pm. When attempts were made by the defence to postpone the hearing until tomorrow, the prosecutor, Andrew Marimo, replied that he was acting under strict instruction that the trial begins today.
The trial finally began in front of a packed court room (many of whom were WOZA members coming to give solidarity to their comrades) with Magistrate Rose Dube presiding. The charges stated that that the material that the two were carrying, namely a banner stating that ‘we want bread and roses’ and the Woza Moya newsletter, were obscene, abusive, threatening or insulting and intended a provoke a breach a peace. The line from the newsletter that the State had highlighted was “we immediately call on Robert Mugabe to hand over power to the winner of the presidential election, Morgan Tsvangirai”. The prosecutor attempted to argue that this line contravened laws that state that no one should announce the results of the election before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Mr Kacaca Phulu from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights represented the two WOZA members. His defence was very simple; that none of the words or messages on any of the material carried was obscene, abusive, threatening or insulting. He went on to argue that contradictions in the Zimbabwean Electoral Act mean that people could interpret the clause in a Schedule of the Act as being correct. Therefore calling on Robert Mugabe to hand over power was not insulting the President but merely citizens exercising their right to an opinion.
The prosecutor tried to rebut by asking the court to consider the State’s feelings but was interrupted by Magistrate Dube who argued that this was not possible otherwise every Zimbabwean would be going through the courts for saying what they think.
After arguments were heard, Magistrate Dube announced that she would deliver her ruling on Monday 12th May and remanded Moyo and Ncube on $1 billion bail each (approximately US$5 at current exchange rates).
To read a copy of the ‘obscene, insulting, abusive and threatening’ newsletter, click here. Woza Moya English May 2008
In Harare meanwhile, WOZA leaders were attending the funeral of a long-standing WOZA member, Josephine John. Josephine passed away on Sunday 4th after a long illness. She will be remembered for her commitment to making a better future for herself and her children. Woza Moya!