MDC-T legislator acquitted

MUTARE– Mutasa Central MP Trevor Saruwaka scored victory against the state after his demonstration case was thrown out.

The legislator was on trial under charges of illegally organising and leading villagers in a demonstration against politicisation of government food aid, a case which has been dismissed as ‘fatally defective’.

Magistrate Nyasha Kuture exempted Saruwaka due to a defective charge after Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ David Tandiri applied for the dismissal of the case at its start due to what he argued was a defective charge sheet.

Saruwaka was being charged with contravening section 25 1(a) of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) by holding a public demonstration without notifying the police.

Tandiri successfully argued that the charge was not prosecutable as it was an obligation for the demonstrating parties to notify police without penal provisions for failure to do so.

“The charge sheet is fatally defective. Section 25 subsection 1(a) of POSA dies not create an offence, it simply creates an obligation on the part of the convener of a public gathering to give notice to the regulating authority but dues but  create an offence. It does not have any penal provision,” Tandiri said before noting that since a plea of not guilty had since been given then the charge could not be amended.

Tandiri also argued that unless the MP was proved to have a legion of demons then he could not be prosecuted under POSA after the state failed to name or allege the involvement of anyone else in the charge sheet.

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Kuture promptly adjourned the case to June 3 to rule on the application for exemption which was later moved to June 21.

Tandiri had also rubbed the state’s nose by stating that the charge did not identify Saruwaka as a convener of any public demonstration which could have been an offence under subsection 5 as he drew from a high court case number 281 of 2014 in which Justice Charles Hungwe ruled in a case between Lynette Karenyi and the state that only the convener was liable for prosecution.

The charge arises from a January 8 villagers’ demonstration in Saruwaka’s constituency against the politicization of government aid.

No arrests were made on the day.

Saruwaka handed himself over to the law and order section on January 14 after a note was left at his Mutasa DC home inviting him in for questioning over the demonstration.

He was however released as police continued with their investigations.

Over 100 frustrated villagers barricaded Mutasa GMB Depot barring a truckload of fertilizer with police details on board from leaving in protest of corruption and politicisation of government financed drought relief and presidential farming inputs distribution, on the day in question.

The villagers were in a two hour stand-off with GMB and government officials only backing down after the District Administrator Tendai Kapenzi attended the scene.

They later handed Kapenzi a petition which claimed that Mutasa was experiencing “unfair management and politicisation of government’s presidential agricultural inputs and other government initiated support programs as espoused in section 59 of the constitution”.

The petition raised concern that government financed “agricultural inputs and food meant for vulnerable people in the communities” were not reaching their intended beneficiaries as “political functionaries” had usurped their distribution from government agents and were “discriminating other needy people perceived to belong to political parties outside the ruling party”.

Their demands were “that all government supported programs be only handled by government employees or civil servants and not political party functionaries,

“…end discrimination to benefit from government initiated programs on the basis of political affiliation; Hunger does not recognise political party boundaries.

“That all elected officials, councillors and MPs, be allowed to exercise their oversight role in these programs since they are the legitimate representatives of the people.

“That the government of Zimbabwe, through the office of the District Administrator, takes its full constitutional responsibility and obligations to care and provide all citizens irrespective of one’s political opinion or persuasion.”