Protest war vets appear in court

AT LEAST 40 war veterans, who were arrested on Tuesday for demonstrating for better living conditions, have appeared before the Harare Magistrates’ Courts.

They were not asked to plead to the charge of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence when they appeared before Harare magistrate Barbra Mateko yesterday. 

Prosecutors, Moses Mapanga and Silent Shoko, also told the court that the State was “strongly opposed to bail” with the war veterans’ lawyers — Paidamoyo Saurombe, Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Idiraishe Chikomba — arguing that their clients should not be placed on remand as they were over detained.

“They were not informed of their charges upon arrest and it was only done the following day after we had written to the commissioner-general (of police). They were also over detained and the law is clear on what should happen when suspects are over detained,” Saurombe argued. 

The State, however, said everything was above board and that their application to place the suspects on remand was justified.

“They were arrested at the crime scene, meaning there is reasonable suspicion they committed the alleged offence,” Mapanga said.

It is the State’s case that on the 13th of this month, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association notified the police of their intention to hold a peaceful march in the capital, which was turned down on the 18th of this month on the basis that the country was still under Covid-19 national lockdown level two.

The police further said they feared that the demonstration could be hijacked by other people.

Reports are that on Tuesday, the police received information that there was a group of war veterans gathered at Africa Unity Square, who wanted to hand over a petition to Parliament and Munhumutapa offices.

The police reportedly advised them to send at least five people with the petition, but they declined, insisting that they wanted to go as a group.

The police ordered them to disperse, but they allegedly refused and started singing revolutionary songs, disturbing the peace and movement of pedestrians and cars, resulting in their arrest. 

Mateko will make a ruling today if they were over detained or not.