BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
LAWYERS representing MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere on charges of communicating falsehoods through social media yesterday told the court that they would want to know the identity of the woman who was allegedly wrestling with a police officer in the social media video.
Mahere appeared before magistrate Trynos Wutawashe on allegations of posting false information on Twitter that the police officer in the video had killed a nine-month-old baby, charges on which journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and MDC Alliance deputy chairperson Job Sikhala have already appeared in court.
After the video went viral, the Zimbabwe Republic Police issued a statement dismissing social media reports that the woman’s child had been killed by the police officer.
They, however, did not disclose her identity.
Mahere’s lawyers David Drury and Jeremiah Bamu told Wutawashe that her tweets did not constitute any offence, as she was exercising her right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution.
Just like Chin’ono and Sikhala, Mahere is also challenging her placement on remand on the basis that she was being charged under “a non-existent law”.
The State, led by prosecutor Charles Muchemwa, however, argued that the freedom of expression right had its limits since Mahere’s tweets were false, with the intention of inciting public violence.
Mahere also recounted the deplorable unsanitary conditions which she was subjected to in police cells, adding that she could not comply with hygienic practices recommended to curb the spread of COVID-19.
She said police were squashing people in detention cells, which was against COVID-19 protocols.
The MDC Alliance spokesperson told the court that there were no sanitisers, face masks and other necessities such as sanitary wear and tissues for detainees in the cells.
The court ordered the State to investigate Mahere’s complaints and provide a report by Friday.
Human rights lawyers have raised concerned over congestion of detainees in Zimbabwean prisons and inadequate medical care and facilities to protect them from COVID-19.
Harare mayor Jacob Mafume reportedly fell sick while on remand and had to enlist the services of a private doctor to assess his condition.
Last week when he was remanded in custody, Chin’ono requested running and warm water in cells, a prerequisite for COVID-19 precautionary measures, but he complained in court that the prison officers failed to do so.
Mahere was remanded in custody to Friday January 15, 2020 for ruling on her application.