A HARARE magistrate yesterday turned down a bail application by the two suspected witches who were arrested in Budiriro high-density suburb, Harare, last week and are being charged with engaging in a practice commonly associated with witchcraft.
The pair of Maria Moyo (30) and Chipo Chakaja (26) is being charged with contravening section 98(1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The court remanded the two women in custody last week under the Mental Health Act and ordered that they be examined by doctors to establish their mental status.
Moyo and Chakaja, both of Nembudziya, Gokwe, were represented by their lawyer Tawanda Takaindisa. The lawyer submitted that it would be sensible for the pair to undergo psychiatric examination as demanded by the court, while in the custody of their relative who resides in Harare.
“The State conceded that the reason why they were detained was because no one was forthcoming (to take care of them). Why no one was forthcoming was because of the media hype and fear among family members. It is not in dispute that they have to be medically examined, but it is my contention that they be examined while in the custody of someone who would have deposed to an affidavit,” argued Takaindisa.
He went on to produce the affidavit signed by Chakaja’s relative, Wellington Musiiwa, who vouched to take the two into his custody.
However, provincial magistrate Reuben Mukavhi dismissed the application, saying no circumstance warranting bail had changed since the two were remanded in custody.
“I do not see any reason why I should change the conditions I attached to the order. It was my view that it would be for the safety of society and the accused themselves that they be in custody pending their examination. Application is thus dismissed,” ruled Mukavhi.
Moyo and Chakaja were arrested while naked last Wednesday. They were in possession of winnowing baskets (masero), owls and other material commonly associated with witchcraft.
Their presence outside a self-proclaimed prophet’s house in the wee hours of the morning triggered pandemonium in Budiriro as hundreds of residents stampeded to catch a glimpse of the two.
The women are expected back in court on September 26. Fanuel Madanire prosecuted.