The treason case against activist Munyaradzi Gwisai and five others took a new twist Wednesday after the Attorney-General (AG)’s Office surprisingly directed the case be heard at the magistrates’ court instead of a higher court.
The AG’s Office set the trial date for July 18 at the regional magistrates’ court in Harare after thwarting attempts by Gwisai and his co-accused to apply for refusal of further remand.
After being called into the dock, Gwisai, the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) general coordinator, Antoinette Choto, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Edson Chakuma, Hopewell Gumbo and Welcome Zimuto were immediately remanded to their trial date by Harare magistrate Donald Ndirowei.
However, it was not made clear even to the magistrate why the AG’s Office had decided to refer the trial of the six to the magistrates’ court when they were facing treason charges for trying to subvert the constitutionally elected government of Zimbabwe.
Edmore Nyazamba of the AG’s Office did not shed light on the latest development but simply advised the magistrate of the trial date.
Gwisai’s lawyer, Marufu Mandevere, who stood in for Alec Muchadehama, said: “I am not sure whether the trial will be heard on that date because this is a treason matter whose jurisdiction lies with the High Court. Maybe the State would want to withdraw the treason charge and prefer a lesser charge.”
Mandevere also indicated to the magistrate that the defence team intended to make an application for relaxation of the bail conditions and the date for the application would be advised upon Muchadehama’s return from the Netherlands.
Gwisai (42) was arrested in February together with 44 others but charges against his 39 co-accused were dropped after regional magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi ruled there was no evidence against them.
The State alleges that Gwisai called for a meeting at number 43 Julius Nyerere Way in Harare attended by participants drawn from all over the country.
The State also alleges 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.”
The State further alleges participants were encouraged to revolt against the government but police received a tip-off and arrested the accused before they took action.