Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
SEVEN MDC Alliance members, among them the party chairperson Thabitha Khumalo and Senator Helen Zivira Mpofu who were recently arrested in Bulawayo for allegedly distributing fliers for a planned demonstration, have been placed off remand.
Khumalo (58), Mpofu (44), Tendai Masotsha (45), Elliot Mujeri (34), Tinashe Matimbura (28), Meliqiniso Sithole (42) and Shelton Tembo (35) appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Mr Tinashe Tashaya facing charges of publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State.
Prior to the latest development, the seven accused persons were out of custody on $400 bail each. They had been ordered not to interfere with witnesses and to report once a week at Bulawayo Central Police Station as part of their bail conditions.
Mr Tashaya ruled that the accused persons could not be put on further remand and the matter will proceed by way of summons.
“I’m removing remand until such a time the State put its house in order,” ruled the magistrate.
The ruling follows an application by the State for exception to the charge in terms of section 31 (b) (i) (A) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which was opposed by their lawyer Mr Godfrey Nyoni of Moyo and Nyoni Legal Practitioners, arguing that his clients were improperly before the court.
“According to Section 34 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Prosecutor General was supposed to have authorised the prosecution of the accused persons.
“That authority was never sought and the accused were actually brought to court when they had not committed any crime.
“The accused only peacefully distributed fliers and the State was never prejudiced by their actions,” said Mr Nyoni.
The prosecutor, Ms Memory Matare said: “We were unable to respond to the defence counsel’s opposition to our application for further remand because we were still waiting for authority to prosecute.
“We will, however, proceed by way of summons if the need arises.” Ms Matare, said on August 17, the accused persons using a grey Ford Ranger and acting in common purpose went around Tshabalala and Nkulumane distributing fliers titled ‘Free Zimbabwe campaign.’
“The fliers which were addressed to all Zimbabweans, asserted that the 2018 harmonised elections were stolen whilst they knew that such information was false,” said Ms Matare.
The offence was discovered by police leading to the arrest of the accused persons and recovery of the fliers. – @mashnets