Letter from Zimbabwe: Court dismisses acquittal application by the '6 Egyptians'

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Action is support of the charged Zimbabwean activists, Fremantle, Western Australia. Six Zimbabwean socialists are charged with “inciting public violence” (which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment).  Munyaradzi Gwisai, director of the Labor Law Centre, Tafadzwa Choto and Tatenda Mombeyarara, trade unionist Edison Chakuma, debt rights activist Hopewell Gumbo and student leader Welcome Zimuto were arrested on February 19 while meeting to watch video footage of democracy protests in Egypt and Tunisia (David Mpatsi, one of the 45 activists originally charged with treason for attending the film screening, died following a rapid deterioration in his health while he was imprisoned and denied medical treatment). The following letter explains the latest developments. For more background to the case, click HERE.

February 16, 2012 -- Yesterday Magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini dismissed the defendants' application for the discharge of charges of conspiring to commit public violence. Their lawyer, Alex Muchadehama had applied for discharge at the close of the state's case on the basis that the state had failed to produce sufficient evidence to require the defendants to put up a defence.

Magistrate Jarabini ruled that the matter should proceed to the defence case as the state had established a prima facie case against the activists tending to prove the commission of an offence. He did this without giving explanations of his ruling. The trial is set to continue on February 27 and hopefully the defendants will finish giving their evidence on March 2, 2012, as they are now aware of the delaying and frustrating tactics that the state is champions of.

What happened yesterday shows that the state wants to continue with its harassment of any opposition voice. This is despite what transpired during the trial with the state's "star witness". He called himself Jonathan Shoko and said he is a police officer attached to Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU), but was exposed to be from the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) [secret police] and his real name is Rodwell Chitiyo. He took an oath under a false name.

The main aim of this witness, who attended the International Socialist Organization (ISO) meeting, was to incriminate innocent people. The evidence by the star witness whose evidence the state is relying on lacked credibility. He did not only lie about his identity but also lied about what he alleges to have happened. It is punishable in Zimbabwe to lie under oath. It is interesting to note that during the time he was giving his evidence even the state-sponsored Herald newspaper was left with no option but to expose that the star witness's evidence had loopholes. The magistrate could be seen laughing during the time “Shoko” was giving his hilarious made-up and rehearsed evidence. The case should have been dismissed the case immediately.

When the ruling was delivered murmurs of disapproval could be heard from the court, which was full with ISO members and other sympathisers.

We have already witnessed the violent disruption of the 10th anniversary by the radical Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) on February 14 by police as they marched to the parliament with placards denouncing the police and calling on Zimbabweans to send tough love to their leaders.

Last week an academic lecture on “The global financial crisis and implication for the Third World: the case for Zimbabwe” that was scheduled to be addressed by Professor Patrick Bond from South Africa at a city hotel was stopped by police. Dozens of armed riot police were scattered outside the hotel turning away anybody who might be participants.

All this is to send strong message of intimidation by the unpopular ZANU-PF [Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front] as we move towards the proposed constitutional referendum and possibly the elections this year. The draft constitution that was released last Thursday says that “a person is disqualified for election as President if he or she has already held office for one or more periods,  whether continuous or not, amounting to 10 years". This is not what ZANU-PF wants. At its congress last December it endorsed Mugabe as its presidential candidate, yet he has been in power since independence in 1980.

The intimidation is meant to silence any opposing voice as we move towards the climax of Zimbabwean political crisis.

Yesterday Zimbabwe was saddened by the ruling, not only for the defendants' possible fate but for the fates of all Zimbabweans who are willing to fight against the system. Already there are seven MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] activists who have been languishing in prison since May 2011 for the alleged murder of a police officer, yet the real murderers are walking free. If courts can no longer operate professionally but are decided by political interests, we must ask ourselves where are we heading as a country?

Though supporters of the "Egyptian six" had hoped to celebrate the first anniversary of their arrest on February 19 with them as free people, they remain optimistic that they will sail through especially with the support that they continue to receive from their families, friends, comrades in Zimbabwe and throughout the world.

In the time leading to February 27 the campaign is  intensifying to put the government under pressure to drop the charges against the six and we appeal to comrades outside the country to help us in doing this. The ruling showed that the state can do anything and if pressure is not put on them the defendants will find themselves sent back to Chikurubi or remand prisons.

We appeal to comrades to help raise funds for the intensified campaign that is now running before and during the defence case in court.

Aluta continua!

Viva, socialism viva!

To donate to the solidarity fund:

Account Name: CDL–MINE–LINE Worker Solidarity Fund.

Deposit reference: Zimbabwe Treason Trialists Solidarity Fund.

Bank: NEDBANK, Killarney Branch, PO Box 87157, Houghton, 2041, South Africa. Branch code: 191 60535

Current account number: 100 185 3784. SWIFT code: NEDSZAJJ.