Zimbabwean officials prosecute battered, bruised MDC leaders in hospital

Three members of Zimbabwe's opposition MDC Alliance were arrested in a Harare hospital on Tuesday. Their court hearing took place in the hospital.
Three members of Zimbabwe's opposition MDC Alliance were arrested in a Harare hospital on Tuesday. Their court hearing took place in the hospital.
Image: 123RF/Stockstudio44

Zimbabwean prosecutors have proposed ZW$2,000 (about R800) bail for recently abducted and tortured MDC Alliance youth activists Cecilia Chimburu, 31, Netsai Marova, 21, and member of the house of assembly Joana Mamombe, 27.

The three are accused of taking part in an illegal demonstration on May 13.

The state further wants them to report three times a week to the police station nearest to where they live. Harare magistrate Babara Mateko will make a ruling on the matter on Thursday.

The three were arrested in hospital on Tuesday, where they were being treated for injuries sustained while they were allegedly kidnapped and tortured by suspected state agents. Their court hearing was at Parktown Hospital in Waterfalls, Harare.

Their “flash” demonstration on May 13 in the Harare suburb of Warren Park happened during the Covid-19 lockdown. It was the state’s case that they contravened official regulations on Covid 19 prevention, containment and treatment.

The law stipulates that a gathering of more than 50 people during the lockdown is illegal. The MDC Alliance demonstration had more than that number and had not been sanctioned by the police.

The state argued that the accused intended to "promote public violence or breaches of peace". It also alleged that the demonstrators had carried a placard with "unlock us before we revolt" written on it in bold letters - a clear sign they were out to cause chaos.

“The accused were positively identified by witness during the commission of the offence, who tipped off the police, leading to their arrest,” read the state’s case outline.

Initially the police confirmed to state media that the three were taken into custody at the time. However, they later said they didn’t know the activists' whereabouts.

Their alleged abduction, sexual abuse and torture is the latest frontier of diplomatic tiffs between Harare and foreign missions stationed in Zimbabwe. The European Union (EU) bloc and the US issued a statement demanding that Harare respect human rights and bring to book those responsible for the violations.

But Zimbabwe’s minister of foreign affairs, retired army Lt-Gen Sibusiso Moyo, denied the government’s involvement.

“It is most disconcerting to note that some sections of the media and even some within the diplomatic community appear to have already concluded that the Zimbabwean government was responsible for the alleged abuses,” he said in a statement.

Recently the deputy minister of information and broadcasting services, Energy Mutodi, was fired by President Emmerson Mnangagwa after a tweet in which he said the “MDC Alliance Three” faked their abduction. He said instead they went to see their lovers at a mining town and tragedy struck when they asked to be paid in US dollars for services. 

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