Minister, priest appear in leg irons

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HWANGE — Detained National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu and his co-accused, Lupane Roman Catholic priest, Father Marko Mnkandla, were yesterday dragged to court in leg irons and handcuffed to each other to answer charges of holding a political rally without police clearance.

Although they were granted $500 bail each, they remained in custody because they did not have their passports which they needed to surrender as part of their bail conditions.

Hwange magistrate Peter Tomupei Madibha remanded them to May 30.

Defence lawyers described the treatment of their clients as a show of brute force by state security agents.

Drama characterised the two’s court appearance as seven senior officials from both MDC parties, including an MP, five lawyers and a Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) member, were arrested at roadblocks mounted along the highway leading to Hwange where Mnkandla and Mzila-Ndlovu were being held.

MDC officials arrested were national organising secretary Qhubani Moyo, who is a Jomic member, former Nkulumane senator Rita Ndlovu, the party’s national spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube and Noble Malunguza, the party’s secretary for strategy and implementation for Matabeleland North province.

Three MDC –T members — former Nkayi South MP Abednigo Bhebhe, Hwange East MP Brian Tshuma and Sengezo Tshabangu — were also arrested.
Five lawyers who were also arrested at the roadblock include Mzila-Ndlovu’s defence team of Matshobana Ncube and Kucaca Phulu, the priest’s lawyer Nikiwe Ncube and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) team of Lizwe Jamela and Nosimilo Chanayiwa.
The ZLHR later dispatched another lawyer, Job Sibanda, to expedite the release of his colleagues. They were released without charge just before close of business yesterday.

Mzila-Ndlovu’s lawyers were later released and allowed to proceed to Hwange Magistrates’ Court just before close of business where they eventually secured bail for their client.

But the priest’s lawyer, Ncube, was only released at 5:30pm after her client had appeared in court represented by another lawyer, Gugulethu Simango from the ZLHR.

The Welshman Ncube-led MDC delegation that had left Bulawayo in the morning to attend the trial in solidarity with Mzila-Ndlovu was detained until late in the evening.

Charges against them could not be verified at the time of going to print.

Matabeleland North police spokesperson Inspector Trust Ndlovu could neither confirm nor deny the detention of the lawyers and the MDC delegation.

“I need to check with the station. I haven’t heard anything about it. It’s just that I have been too divorced from office matters,” he said. MDC-T member of Jomic Thabitha Khumalo described the detention of lawyers, politicians and fellow committee member as unacceptable.

“Moyo is one of the leaders of this country as part of Jomic which should monitor the implementation of the GPA. We should respect the leadership of the country,” Khumalo said.

Another Jomic member, Edward Mkhosi of MDC, said:

“It is regrettable to hear that someone going to attend a court case can be detained.”

Mzila-Ndlovu was arrested last Friday for addressing a memorial Mass for Gukurahundi victims and survivors at a Roman Catholic Church in Lupane on Wednesday.

Mnkandla, who was arrested on Wednesday, is charged with publishing falsehoods against the state, publicising hate speech against Shona people in contravention of the Public Order and Security Act and possessing pornographic material.