THE campaign by human rights lawyers to secure the freedom of 29 Chingwizi villagers arrested for public violence on Wednesday finally paid off after 25 of the villagers were each granted $30 bail by Chiredzi magistrate Tayengwa Chibanda.
They were subsequently remanded out of custody to September 5 2014, although the court ruled that the other four were not good candidates for bail.
Lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) — Blessing Nyamaropa, Phillip Shumba, Collin Maboke and Martin Mureri — had been fighting since Monday to secure freedom for the accused persons.
Bail was finally granted although their first two applications — in which they argued that their constitutional rights were violated during a dragnet capture by the police on August 3 and 4 and their placement on remand were erroneous — were dismissed.
In the bail application, the lawyers argued that the State had failed to furnish the court with a justification for he continued detention of the villagers who included an 84–year–old man, two teenagers and a toddler.
The State had opposed bail on the basis that the 29 villagers could abscond as they were not permanent residents of Chingwizi, but were just being kept in a transit camp.
During the bail application, the lawyers raised concern that one of the detainees Collin Tandare, who is a single parent had left her two minor children unattended and they were reportedly missing.
Among the accused persons were also 84–year-old village head Kandros Purazeni and Ellen Muteiwa, who was detained with her two–year–old baby as well as other villagers that the defence argued could not be linked to the alleged public violence as they were of poor health and living in their tents or were out of Chingwizi transit camp when the alleged offence was committed.
The villagers were arrested after thousands of protesting Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims resisting relocation of Chingwizi Transit Camp clinic to a new site earmarked for their resettlement allegedly burnt two police vehicles and disarmed anti-riot police officers in clashes on August 1.
The villagers, who have been camped at Chingwizi Transit Camp since floods ravaged Masvingo in February this year, allegedly turned violent after a second attempt by the government to move the clinic in a bid to force them to accept relocation.