Gwisai, 5 others further remanded

Embattled former MDC MP and International Socialist Organisation (ISO) coordinator Munyaradzi Gwisai and five other activists charged with treason after they allegedly organised an Egypt-style uprising against government two weeks ago, were denied bail Monday.

They were further remanded to March 21.

Initially, Gwisai was being charged together with 45 other activists, but 39 were released yesterday after the state failed to prove a prima facie case against them.

Gwisai, together with Antoinette Choto, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Edson Chakuma, Hopewell Gumbo and Welcome Zimuto, were advised to apply for bail at the High Court.

In his ruling, provincial magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi said the state had proved reasonable suspicion of treason existed against the six accused.

“Accused one, two, three, five, six and seven discussed the possibilities of doing what happened in Egypt, the state is not alleging that viewing the Egyptian and Tunisian videos was criminal, but was meant to incite the others to revolt against the present government,” Mutevedzi ruled. “It is worrying to note that the state did not seek to particularise what each one of the remaining accused did, only one police officer was said to be present and to imagine that one officer could see what was done by each and every one of the accused is absolutely fictitious.”

Mutevedzi was speaking before releasing the other 39 activists charged together with Gwisai.

“I have no doubt that indeed this was a dragnet arrest and merely listening to speeches cannot be construed as treasonous. I reject what the state said in respect of the rest of the accused persons and therefore I cannot place them on remand, but free them to go home,” he ruled.

Mutevedzi also said he noted there was evidence the police rounded up HIV activists who had been invited to commemorate the passing-on of one of their leader but the state had made a baseless application to have them placed on remand.

Gwisai (42) was initially jointly charged with 11 women and 33 men on allegations of organising a violent toppling of government “the Egyptian way”.

The state alleged last month Gwisai called for a meeting at number 43 Julius Nyerere Way in Harare, where participants were drawn from all over the country.

It is alleged entry into the meeting was strictly by invitation and participants, though invited, were subjected to thorough vetting before being allowed into a room which was constantly kept under lock and key.

Prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba told court that during the meeting there was a list of speakers and a mission statement for the organisation, which read “ISO calls on workers, students and working people to support the struggle in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian workers”.

Gwisai, together with Choto and Mombeyarara, roped in Chakuma, Gumbo and Zimuto as speakers substituting those that did not attend.

It is alleged that during the meeting, the speakers took turns to address the gathering allegedly stating that in Zimbabwe, there was a long-ruling authoritarian leadership, general hunger, poverty, unemployment and capitalist practices where wealth was enjoyed by a few individuals while the general populace was suffering.

The state allegs the participants were encouraged to revolt against the government but police foiled their plans.

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