Zimbabwe court acquits opposition politicians accused of lying over police assault
National Prosecuting Authority says it will appeal against the acquittal
The Zimbabwe high court has acquitted two opposition politicians — legislator Joana Mamombe and activist Cecilia Chimbiri from the Citizen’s Coalition for Change (CCC) party — who were accused of fabricating a story about being abducted while in police custody and later tortured in 2020.
The politicians, and a third woman now exiled, Netsai Marova, faced charges of publishing or communicating false statements over abduction and torture. The women had been accused of tarnishing the image of the state.
The charges are from 2020 when the women were arrested for flouting Covid-19 rules and taking part in a protest in Harare against the state’s failure to provide for the poor during the country’s lockdown. They then disappeared but were later found on a roadside in Bindura, 88km northeast of Harare, with their clothes torn and badly injured.
The case was being heard in the magistrate's court but the two opposition politicians appealed to the high court to have the charges thrown out.
Acquitting them, judge Priscilla Munangati Manongwa said the state’s case was biased and lacked evidence.
“The evidence brought to court is found to be grossly unreasonable, irrational, characterised by bias and malice and cannot be in accordance with real and substantial justice. The applicants cannot be pushed into a defence case to supplement the inadequacies of the state case and hope that in the process they incriminate themselves.
“It is not for the court to try and prop up a crumbling case, a court has to acquit in the absence of evidence to support an essential element of charge, or where the evidence is manifestly unreliable that no reasonable court can act on it. The accused persons, Joana Mamombe and Cecilia Revai Chimbiri, be and are hereby found not guilty, discharged and acquitted at the close of the state case. There is no order as to the costs,” said Munangati Manongwa.
In a statement on Wednesday, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it would appeal against Mamombe and Chimbiri’s acquittal by the high court.
“The state will be appealing the decision of the high court in the case of Joanna Mamombe and Cecelia Revai Chimbiri versus the chief magistrate F Mushure NO and the state. The state is of the considered view that the judgment is defective for want of compliance with the High Court Act (Chap 7:06) as well as precedent which provides that another judge must concur with the presiding judge before the judgment is handed down. The state is also contending that the judge grossly misdirected herself by interfering with the unterminated proceedings from the lower court as the termination of proceedings in this case was unjustified.
“Furthermore, the state is certain that another court presented with the same facts might come to a different conclusion,” the NPA said.
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