Lawyers rescue detained toddler, pregnant woman

The villagers were charged with disorderly conduct as defined in section 41 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

POLICE have set free a toddler and a pregnant woman who were detained alongside other aggrieved villagers after they had protested maladministration by some school authorities at Sagambe Primary School in Manicaland province.

The three-year-old toddler was at Ruda Police Station, together with grandmother Jennifer Sithole (58), Esther Kuseri who is pregnant, and four other villagers from Sagambe village in Mutasa District.

The villagers were charged with disorderly conduct as defined in section 41 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

According to a report by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), police officers accused Kuseri, Sithole and four other villagers namely Tafirenyika Boterere, Shadreck Manyange, Brighton Manyange and Noel Chikosa of masterminding a protest at Evans Mwaturura, the school head of Sagambe Primary School.

The villagers were also accused of allegedly stopping schoolchildren from attending lessons at the school.

“The allegations of maladministration had been raised during a School Development Committee (SDC) annual general meeting, which was held at Sagambe Primary School, where some parents intended to raise several concerns against Mwaturura,” part of the report read.

 “The disgruntled parents had sought to engage officials from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and eventually a meeting was held with officials from the ministry in the presence of some ZRP officers from Ruda Police Station. Kuseri was arrested during the meeting for allegedly raising her voice.”

ZLHR said Kuseri was released from detention at Ruda Police Station on Thursday last week after she paid an admission of guilt fine for disorderly conduct in a public place. She was accused of contravening section 41 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Her release followed the intervention of human rights lawyer Tatenda Sigauke.

The lawyers said Kuseri opted to pay an admission of guilt fine because she was pregnant and the conditions of police detention were making her uncomfortable. Indications are that she was also not comfortable with the inconvenience of court processes considering her condition.

“Chikosa who is the former SDC a chairperson at Sagambe Primary School, was separately charged with contravening Section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry,” ZLHR said.

“Chikosa was accused of being the one who had written a list of grievances levelled against Mwaturura, which had been presented at the meeting with officials from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.”

 The lawyers indicated that the three-year-old toddler and Sithole, Boterere, Manyange, Chikosa and Manyange, were only set free following the intervention of Sigauke on Friday last week at Mutasa Magistrates Court, where they had been hauled for their initial appearance.

ZLHR said Sigauke successfully argued against the placement of the villagers on remand and demanded that they be released immediately.

Prosecutors were left with no option but to assent to Sigauke’s request and this led to the release of the five villagers including the three-year-old toddler.

Prosecutors stated that they would resort to summoning the villagers if they were to consider prosecuting them.

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