Tendai Rupapa, Harare Bureau
CONTROVERSIAL self-proclaimed pastor Evan Mawarire of the shadowy #ThisFlag campaign yesterday had his application challenging placement on remand dismissed.
He was remanded in custody to February 17 with instructions to seek bail at the High Court.
He is facing allegations of subverting a constitutionally-elected Government or alternatively inciting public violence.
Unlike before when hundreds of people thronged the court in support of Mawarire, only a handful were in the gallery yesterday.
Through his lawyers Messrs Harrison Nkomo and Jeremiah Bhamu, Mawarire unsuccessfully challenged his placement on remand.
In dismissing the application, Harare provincial magistrate Mr Elisha Singano said there was reasonable suspicion that Mawarire committed the offence.
He said the facts as outlined by the State disclosed an offence.
“What is needed at this stage is reasonable suspicion and by inciting people to boycott, civil disobedience and shut down of the country-prima facie constitute an offence,” he said.
“The conduct of the accused person sufficiently links him to the charge therefore his application is dismissed and should be placed on remand. The court will allow the State to finalise their investigations.”
Mawarire argued that the facts presented by the State did not disclose an offence.
Mr Nkomo said what his client is alleged to have done did not constitute an offence. “He has done absolutely nothing wrong and the set of State papers before you demonstrate same. Urging citizens to protest is a freedom of expression according to the new Constitution,” he said.
“As long as the State is not alleging that there was violence, therefore, the accused person did nothing wrong. We as citizens are allowed to challenge Government policies through peaceful means. In the papers they do not say he encouraged people to be violent hence their charges do not stick.”
He added: “In all his videos, the accused person always urged the public not to engage in violent protests. They (state) do not allege that he set an army to execute a coup. The totality of the allegations do not in any way establish a crime not even a prima-facie one.”
In response, the prosecutor, Mr Edmore Nyazamba, with the assistance of Mr Tapiwa Kasema, opposed the application insisting that Mawarire had a case to answer.
Mr Nyazamba said the State’s case was strong and that there was reasonable suspicion that Mawarire committed the offence.
“The arguments by the defence were only made to buy time. The accused person urged citizens to revolt and what does revolt mean, it means taking violent measures or action,” he said.
“The most important thing at this stage is whether or not the allegations disclose a reasonable suspicion and from the facts gathered indeed they do disclose an offence hence he should be placed on remand.”
The magistrate concurred with the State and remanded Mawarire in custody. It is the State’s case that between July 13 and December last year, Mawarire went to the print and electronic media inciting Zimbaweans to revolt against the constitutionally-elected Government.
He allegedly urged people not to go to work and they took heed and engaged in violent demonstrations.
It is alleged he continued circulating videos on social media platforms inciting people to stage demonstrations.
It is futher alleged that on September 15, Mawarire called for Zimbabweans in America and all over the world to converge in New York and confront President Mugabe who was attending the United Nations General Assembly.
He urged people to embarrass President Mugabe and call for his immediate resignation, the State alleged.
Article Source: The Chronicle