BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
SEVERAL local human rights activists and civic society groups have threatened to storm the Harare Magistrates Courts today in protest against pro-democracy campaigner Makomborero Haruziviishe’s conviction.
Haruziviishe (29), an executive member of the MDC Alliance, will be sentenced today after he was convicted on charges of inciting public violence and resisting police arrest by Harare magistrate Judith Taruvinga on Wednesday last week.
But rights activists yesterday said Haruziviishe would be the first person to be convicted for public violence.
Rights defenders also took to different social media platforms where they argued that the pro-democracy campaigner was a victim of weaponisation of the law by the President Emmerson Mnangagwa-led government which is aimed at silencing critics and thwarting dissent.
“Tomorrow (today) the regime has to free @MakomboreroH or face something it has never faced or imagined facing before. The choice is the regime’s,” political activist Promise Mkwananzi tweeted.
The Southern Africa Youth Forum (SAYF), a co-ordinating platform for young people in the Southern African Development Committee region, urged the government to abide by the Constitution and respect the views of the youth, in a message posted on its Twitter handle.
“We are very concerned and worried over the conviction of a 29-year-old youth leader @MakomboreroH. We are reliably informed he was just expressing himself as provided in the Zimbabwe Constitution. We call for the government to work together and listen to young people’s views,” SAYF said.
It is the State’s case that Haruziviishe, on February 5, 2020 at the corner of First Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare, whistled to incite vendors to revolt against police brutality.
Haruziviishe, who was represented by Kossam Ncube of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, however, denied the allegations.
Lawyer Munyaradzi Gwisai yesterday described Haruziviishe’s conviction as “the beginning of a worrying trend of persecution of anti-government critics which gives rise to authoritarianism”.
“The possible sentence is a fine of up to level 12 or 10 years imprisonment is serious and severe. However, what is surprising is that there was no damage to property or to the police, but the court, however, decided to convict him under those circumstances,” Gwisai said.
“Under section 59 of the Constitution, citizens have the right to demonstrate peacefully and in this case, there is no evidence that the gathering which Haruziviishe participated in was not going to be peaceful. The criminal law should be consistent with constitutional provision on freedom of gathering and association,” he said.
Activist Namatai Kwekweza said failure to protest against Haruziviishe’s possible incarceration would mean that other activists would suffer the same fate in future, hence the need to speak against persecution of activists and harassment of protestors.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he would not comment on the issue as he was travelling.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi referred questions to Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe who was not reachable on his mobile phone.
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