BULAWAYO – The eight Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) members who were arrested on Sunday were released by a Bulawayo magistrate yesterday, without any charge being preferred against them.
Initially, they had been charged of undermining the authority of the president before the charge was amended to disorderly conduct in a public place.
The eight were apprehended during a church event addressed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair hall.
As Mnangagwa started his address, about 12 MRP members rose to their feet, lifting placards that were inscribed with harsh Gukurahundi messages.
This attracted the attention of bemused congregants leading to about seven police officers swooping on the protestors.
According to Dumisani Dube of Mathonsi Legal Practitioners who was representing the eight, his clients were taken to Mzilikazi Barracks where they were allegedly beaten by the army before being handed over to the police.
“I visited them when they were in police custody and they were severely beaten.
“Some of them are in serious pain. I also demanded the State papers from the police and they failed to produce them, which shows they had no case against my clients,” said Dube.
Dube said following serious protestation from the defence counsel, they met the public prosecutor and we raised the argument that their client’s rights to free and fair trial had been violated particularly the right to be told what offence or charge was being preferred against them at the time of arrest and that the military police had no arresting powers especially on issues to do with civilians.
“There was also an issue that our clients had been tortured while in police custody both by the military and police.
“There is evidence from a State doctor who was provided by the police which showed that seven of them had serious injuries.
“We also advised the State that there was no offence that was committed; it was just people who overreacted,” said Dube.
Meanwhile, nearly a hundred MRP supporters staged a protest march at the Tredgold Magistrates’ Courts yesterday, demanding their release.
By 8am, agitated members of Mthwakazi had gathered outside the courts, waiting patiently for their colleagues’ initial court appearance.
The more the police delayed bringing the eight to court, the more the number of protesters kept swelling as they sang and danced, disturbing business at the courts.
Realising that the situation was likely to degenerate into chaos, police tried unsuccessfully to plead with MRP president Mqondisi Moyo to disperse the crowd.
Moyo stood his ground, daring the police that he was never going to restrain his supporters since they were at Tredgold of their own volition.
The livid Moyo also challenged president Mnangagwa to come clean on his role during the internationally-condemned Gukurahundi atrocities, saying the actions of his administration were not reflective of any commitment on his part to find a lasting solution to the emotive issue.