BY XOLISANI NCUBE
AT least 375 people – predominantly opposition activists, who participated in the January protests that resulted in 17 deaths, have been convicted with Bulawayo providing the bulk of the convictions.
The protests were triggered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement of a 150% fuel price hike amid a deteriorating economic situation.
The statistics from the Zimbabwe Republic Police released this week indicated that at least 225 people were convicted in Bulawayo, with three of them being minors sentenced to receive strokes for participating in the demonstration.
Mnangagwa’s home province of Midlands has so far had six people convicted for participating in the protests, while the two Matabeleland provinces had three cases apiece.
The statistics indicate that 200 of those who have been convicted were fined $20 each for participating in the stayaway that was organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
As at March 30, 65 protesters were jailed for two years, after they were convicted for various offences which included theft, arson, assault and public violence.
Eight were sentenced to seven years in jail across the country and Mashonaland East had five of those, followed by Harare which had two and then Midlands with one. From the statistics, 12 were spared jail by the courts that issued suspended sentences.
In January, police combed urban centres and arrested more than 1 000 people suspected to have been at the forefront of the largely violent protests which culminated in wanton looting and barricading of roads as protesters demanded the government to act on the state of the economy.
The State was swift to deploy armed soldiers, who opened fire at civilians, killing at least 17 people, according to human rights groups.
Some women were allegedly raped by the security forces, although human rights groups said most of them did not report the cases.
Masvingo was the only province which enjoyed peace during the three-day protests and the aftermath, after no-one was arrested.
Some of the leaders of the three-day protest have been arrested on treason charges, although they are yet to be tried.
These include ZCTU leaders Peter Mutasa and Japhet Moyo and rights activist Evan Mawarire.