BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
MDC Chikombedzi district spokesperson John Mazhata last week appeared before Chiredzi resident magistrate, Constance Mtandwa, facing charges of intimidating teachers during the January mass protests.
Mazhata, a farmer from Chikombedzi, who was charged for violating Section 45 of the Criminal Law (Codification and reform Act) [Chapter 9-23], handed himself to Law and Order officers at Chikombedzi Police Station on February 18, 2019, after spending several days in hiding. He went into hiding after being tipped off that State security agents were looking for him.
He became the first person in Chiredzi to be arrested and arraigned before the courts facing charges linked to the January protests. Although Chiredzi residents participated in the stayaway, there were no reports of violence in the town.
According to Chiredzi area prosecutor, Moreblessing Rusere, on January 16, Mazhata made various phone calls to Amos Hlongwani, Chikombedzi Primary School headmaster, Jealousy Mupomba of Alpha High School and Ruzai Vhare of Zhou Primary School threatening them with unspecified action if they reported for duty during the mass protests. The protests were triggered by a 150% fuel price hike.
Rusere further told the court that Mazhata’s actions were unlawful and caused the teachers to live in fear. When questioned by the defence lawyer, Vhare, however, denied being intimidated by Mazhata and so had no reason to report the accused to the police. He was surprised being summoned to court to testify against Mazhata.
The accused, who is being represented by Wellington Muzenda, is denying the charges. His trial kicked off on March 1 and will continue on March 8.