The trial of Highfield East legislator Erick Murai (MDC-T) and 13 others, who were arrested in November last year on charges of public violence, finally kicked off yesterday with the suspects claiming the accusations were a total fabrication based on political affiliation as opposed to criminal grounds.
BY NQOBILE NKIWANE
Murai (44) is being charged alongside Memory Ncube (33), Acquiline Sangani (68), Erenia Chiradza (34), Rutendo Bvute (29), Stella Manyanga (64), Herbert Mwadira (18), Tafadzwa Kambala (25), Snikiwe Mandava (53), Peter Mafara (33), Michael Matemai (67), Farai Kushata (42), Clide Mushamba (30), and Memory Mudyabumbe (46), following the separation of trial.
Two other suspects, Shephered Munyadzi (40) and Givemore Mapirahwa (30), did not attend trial.
Speaking through their lawyer, Advocate Tonderayi Bhatasara, the 14 suspects denied ever attacking the police with any weapon as alleged by the State.
Instead, they insisted the police were the ones who disturbed their peace by throwing tear smoke in a residential area in Hopley Farm.
The State opened its case by leading evidence from Obey Muzivi, a member of the ZRP investigations department, who told the court the suspects attacked the officers with stones and a catapult for about three hours.
Muzivi told the court that when police were instructed to go and disperse people at a rally at Kazembe Rising Star Primary School, they were met with resistance from the MDC-T supporters.
He also said upon facing resistance, the police began using baton sticks and later tear smoke to disperse the gathering, whose members were fighting back with stones.
Muzivi also told the court he arrested two of the suspects at the scene after witnessing them throwing stones.
However, during cross-examination, Muzivi confirmed the Highfield East MP and two other suspects did not participate in the throwing of stones.
Allegations against the 14 are that on November 8 last year, they attended an unsanctioned rally and pelted police officers with stones.
The State alleges on November 2 last year, one Trouble Hasha, applied for permission at Mbare Police Station to hold an MDC-T rally, which was to be held at Kazembe Rising Stars Primary School in Hopley, but the regulating authority did not approve of it.
However, on the day in question, the activists proceeded to gather at the primary school with other MDC-T supporters, Murai included, dressed in their party regalia and upon being dispersed by the police, they turned violent, leading to their arrest.