Mugabe critics flooded courts in 2011

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The arrests and incarceration of critics of President Robert Mugabe and his government hogged the limelight in the southern region’s 2011 judicial year.

The region carved its own dubious niche in history when it recorded the first-ever Facebook trial in the country and probably in the world.

This was when a Bulawayo man, Vikas Mavhudzi, was charged with allegedly posting a subversive statement on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Facebook wall.

The State alleged Mavhudzi’s message was designed to incite the MDC- T leader to topple President Robert Mugabe through mass protests like those which took place in North Africa.
Mavhudzi languished in remand prison for six months.

But police experts failed to retrieve the alleged message from his cellphone, leaving Bulawayo magistrate Rose Dube with no choice but to acquit him in September.

Another major highlight was the incarceration of Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) leaders Paul Siwela, Charles Thomas and John Gazi in April on treason charges.

Gazi and Thomas were released on $2 000 bail each within three weeks, but Siwela was only released three months after the matter was referred to the Supreme Court.

The treason case is still pending at the courts.
MLF is fighting for the secession of the Matabeleland region to form what it calls Mthwakazi Republic.

In April, Organ of National Healing and Reconciliation and Integration co-minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu was arrested for addressing a church service in honour of victims of Gukurahundi at Silwane Primary School, which was organised by Roman Catholic priest Father Marko Mnkandla.

Both Mnkandla and Mzila-Ndlovu were charged for addressing an unsanctioned meeting and incarcerated for a number of days before they were taken to court.

MDC-T Hwange Central MP Brian Tshuma, together with Abednigo Bhebhe, the party’s deputy organising secretary, were also arrested during the same week on their way to visit Mzila-Ndlovu.

Court officials also briefly downed their tools during the course of the year demanding better working conditions.

They only resumed duty following the intervention of their employer the Judicial Services Commission.

Public prosecutors later staged a separate work boycott, resulting in the expulsion of their five leaders.

The latter appealed the expulsion and matter is still pending at the courts.

Award-winning human rights activists Woman of Zimbabwe Arise leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were in September arrested and spent 12 days at Mlondolozi Prison in Bulawayo after being charged with kidnapping and theft.

It was alleged that the pair kidnapped an old woman in Njube in July this year and also allegedly stole an electric torch at a house in Nketa in the city.

They were only released 12 days later.
The trial will continue on January 3 although all the State witnesses have reportedly recanted their statements saying that was not what they told the police, leaving the State case in shambles.

Last month, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe director Andrew Moyse and colleagues, Fadzai December, Molly Chimbanda and Gilbert Mabusa were charged with denigrating President Mugabe.

Chimbanda and Mabusa spent two weeks in incarceration at Gwanda Prison until their release by Justice Nicholas Mathonsi.