BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Thirty-nine members of the War Veterans’ Welfare Pressure Group yesterday appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court charged with participating in a gathering with intent to cause public violence.
Magistrate Barbara Mateko remanded the matter to today for a ruling on their application for refusal to be remanded.
They were represented by lawyer Paidamoyo Saurombe from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who complained that his clients were not advised of their offence following their arrest on Tuesday.
Saurombe said they were only advised of their offence a day after the arrest when their lawyers approached Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga.
The war veterans further submitted that they were arrested around 10am on Tuesday, and made to appear before the courts around 11am yesterday, an hour after the expiry of the 48 hours stipulated by the law for suspects to appear in court.
They argued that the national Constitution stipulates that an over-detained suspect must be released unconditionally.
But the State denied that the accused persons were over-detained, saying their records were prepared around 9am.
The State alleges that on October 13, the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association notified the police of its intention to hold a peaceful march in the Harare central business district (CBD).
The State said they were turned down on October 18 on the basis that the country was still under COVID-19 level two lockdown, which meant that all demonstrations were suspended.
On October 26 at around 10am, members of the Police Reaction Group, who were on patrol in the CBD, received information that there was a group of people gathered in Africa Unity Square, corner Third Street and Jason Moyo Avenue in Harare.
The police proceeded to the scene where they engaged the accused persons who indicated that they were war veterans and wanted to hand over a petition to Parliament and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Munhumutapa offices.
The ex-fighters were allegedly advised to send five representatives with the petition, but they refused insisting that they wanted to go as a group.
On the day they were arrested, the police ordered them to disperse, but the accused refused and started singing revolutionary songs, disturbing peace, movement of the pedestrians and motor vehicles.
They were demonstrating over measly pension stipends of $16 000 per month.
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