HARARE magistrate Tendai Mahwe yesterday grilled the State for contravening rights of accused persons in a case involving three civil society activists arrested after attending a court hearing of detained vendors last Saturday.
BY Edgar Gweshe
Mahwe accused the State of failing to bring the suspects – Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition programmes manager Nixon Nyikadzino and spokesperson Mfundo Mlilo and acting chairperson of Occupy Africa Unity Square Dirk Frey – to court within 48 hours as prescribed by the Constitution.
The trio was arrested at around 10am on Saturday at the Harare Magistrates’ Court and charged with contravening Section 25 (5) of the Public Order and Security Act. The State alleged that the three were involved in skirmishes that had occurred at Harare Remand Prison the previous day.
When they were finally brought to court yesterday, their lawyer, Gift Mtisi from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, argued that the State had contravened Section 50 of the Constitution which states that detained persons should be brought before a court not later than 48 hours after arrest.
The State, led by Idah Mateke assisted by Sharon Mashavira, tried in vain to oppose Mtisi’s submissions arguing that he was trying to mislead the court as the 48-hour period had not yet lapsed.
This prompted Mahwe to call for an adjournment after which the State then concurred with the defence counsel’s submissions.
“We concur with what the defence counsel submitted. There was a typing error with the State papers and the police were sent back to the police station for purposes of that amendment to be attended to.
“I am not aware of the actual time they came back, but it was before lunch-time. We humbly submit that the State was not in deliberate infringement of the accused persons’ right to liberty as enshrined in Section 50 of the Constitution,” Mashavira said.
In his ruling, Mahwe said: “The State has clearly contravened Section 50 of the Constitution and on that basis, the accused persons are entitled to their immediate release.”
ZimRights director Okay Machisa hailed Mahwe’s ruling saying: “We are pleased with this landmark ruling. The State should not detain people just for purposes of detaining. It’s unfortunate there were certain people who were trying to influence the outcome of this process, but we are happy justice has taken its course.”