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Imprisoned 'looters' approach High Court

by Staff reporter
28 Jan 2019 at 10:37hrs | Views
THIRTY-FIVE suspects who are languishing in remand prison for allegedly participating in violent protests and looting shops have approached the High Court challenging the court's refusal to grant them bail pending trial.

They are alleged to be part of a mob that unleashed an orgy of violence and mayhem in Bulawayo, burning cars, property and looting shops.

Elvis Ncube, Hope Mlotshwa, Duduzile Chitumbura, Sibangani Muchinda, Bongani Mugadza, Silethemba Mhlanga, Francisca Chibowe, Paul Chiwanhito, Nkosilathi Ndlovu, Victor Mahachi, Andile Moyo, Silibaziso Ncube, Penziwe Mudenda, Michael Sithole, Carnel Tshuma, Gracious Mudimba, Peter Mapaike, Vusumuzi Mumba, Emmanuel Nyathi, Rejoice Ngwenya, Sindiso Dube, Samukeliso Dlamini, Bekithemba Mhlanga, Heneck Chapeta, Precious Sibanda, Lucia Zhilenty, Melusi Munsaka, Precious Mwembe, Sifelani Muleya, Henry Tshuma, Simiso Mpofu, Thompson Ndlovu, Tendai Gwizo, Prince Musimwa and Memory Dlomo, through their lawyers Dube-Tachiona and Tsvangirai Legal Practitioners, filed an appeal at the High Court against the lower court's refusal to grant them bail. They cited the State as a respondent.

The suspects were last week denied bail pending trial by Western Commonage magistrate Mr Lungile Ncube.

The appellants, who are accused of breaking into several shops at Entumbane Shopping Complex and looting, are facing charges of public violence and unlawful entry.

In their bail statements, the accused persons argue that there are no compelling reasons for the magistrate to deny them bail. They are denying the charges levelled against them, arguing that they are only victims of political violence.

"The appellants did not participate in public violence or looting. In fact, they are victims of political violence who were rounded up by police without committing any offence. They submit that upon arrest at their homes, police did not even bother to listen to their explanations," said the appellants' lawyers.

The lawyers argue that the evidence against their clients is yet to be tested during trial hence they should be granted bail.

"Our constitution provides for the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means there is a likelihood that the appellants may be found not guilty and it is because of this likelihood that the courts have always granted bail pending trial to accused persons. It is for this reason that the courts should not keep in custody possibly innocent people," said the lawyers.

The appellants also challenged the assertion by the State that there was a likelihood of absconding if granted bail, arguing that they are of fixed abode. They also contended that they would not interfere with witnesses.

The State is however opposing the application arguing that there was no guarantee that the accused persons would not abscond or interfere with State witnesses if granted bail. It further argues that the accused persons are a threat to the safety of the public given that they allegedly participated in a civil unrest.

According to court papers on January 15, the accused persons were allegedly among a group of violent protesters who ganged up with others who are still at large and went to Entumbane shopping Complex.

They allegedly engaged in violent skirmishes with law enforcement agents forcing them to retreat before they looted shops during the planned three-day nationwide stay away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and other civil society organisations aligned to the opposition MDC- Alliance. They allegedly invaded OK Supermarket and other shops in the complex and looted groceries among other items.

The accused persons were allegedly part of a mob that staged mass protests dubbed "Zimbabwe National Total Shutdown" and went around looting shops, burning vehicles and private properties and disrupted public order and peace.

They were part of the crowd that allegedly damaged property and burnt tyres, barricaded roads and threw missiles at the law enforcement agents.

The protesters also turned parts of the city's western suburbs into no-go areas as they set up barricades, makeshift roadblocks, burnt tyres and attacked police officers and other law enforcement agents.

Source - chronicle