Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Zimbabwe ISO 46 charged with treason

TOP del.icio.us

I went to court this evening to support my colleague and the 45 other accused who are still in custody following a meeting of the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe (ISO). The accused include Munyaradzi Gwisai and Hopewell Gumbo. All 46 were at court for a good hour before the Magistrate arrived, and then the lawyer for the prosecution looked surprised that the Magistrate – and the lawyers for the accused – wanted the accused persons to appear in the court. So it took another age before everyone was brought in, and named, and accounted for.

Meanwhile, the prosecution had sprung new charges on the accused at the last minute – the lawyers for the accused weren’t even aware of them until they all got to court. The surprise extra charge? Treason. Plotting to overthrow the government through unconstitutional means is now just the back up charge.

Meanwhile, the charges themselves feel flimsy as air. Allegedly, this group of 46 people got together, watched a DVD, listened to some speeches, and then developed plans as to how they were going to overthrow the government. Evidence of this includes DVDs of events in Egypt and Tunisia. And some placards with the ISO emblem on them supporting socialism with slogans like Marxism this year! And MDC Ndizvo!

Seriously. What thinking person can look at all of this and build a case of treason from it? Or even one of plotting to overthrow the government through unconstitutional means. Firstly, how is supporting Marxism or socialism treasonous – particularly when you think about the rhetoric of the post-Liberation Mugabe government! Never mind the fact that the MDC isn’t socialist or Marxist, so if you were really some Marxist revolutionary you probably wouldn’t be supporting the MDC. Never mind the fact that watching the DVD and having a discussion about it isn’t unconstitutional – in fact, the Constitution allegedly supports civic rights like freedom of opinion. Not to mention the sheer logistics – in the time between when the meeting started and when the police “responded to a tip off” (according to the charges) and raided it, there would barely have been enough time to watch a video and listen to some speeches. Imagine how long it would take 46 people to seriously develop plans to overthrow a government. And even the government’s evidence itself is patchy. One of the supporting documents of their case is the agenda of the meeting – where it was stated that the purpose was to show solidarity with workers in Tunisia and Egypt. Somehow in the Shona translation of the charges, this got turned into Chimurenga, but no one objected to that. In what society is expressing solidarity with workers treasonous?

Anyway, their charges having been read out, the accused were asked to raise their hands if they did not understand the charges. One by one at least five people raised their hands, until the Magistrate stopped the proceedings. He asked the lawyers for the accused if they should even be representing them if they hadn’t explained the charges to the clients. The lawyer asked how could they have explained the charges if this treason charge had just been sprung on them at the last minute. Fair enough, the Magistrate said, take some time and explain them to your clients; we’ll meet back here tomorrow. The Magistrate wanted 8:30, but the prosecution had another matter at 10, so after another power play back and forth they settled on 11:15. Meanwhile, these 46 have been remanded in custody for their fifth night. Understandably, they look tired and stressed and unhappy. How can you keep people in custody for five nights on such baseless charges?

I wanted the Magistrate to look at the lawyer for the prosecution and tell him what a useless knob he was. I wanted him to hear the charges and say there is no way there can be any grounds for a treason case in here, and dismiss the matter. I wanted him to laugh in that lawyers face and say Really? Treason? What dictionary did you use? This is absurd and it’s a waste of everybody’s time, and I want you to leave my court and never come back. I wanted the Magistrate to say there isn’t anything vaguely substantiated here, release everyone immediately and proceed by way of summons if and when you ever have a case against these people. I wanted those accused who had raised their hands to say they didn’t understand to be honoured as heroes. I wanted those 46 people to receive an apology, a sincere one, and to be sent home tonight.

Instead, justice got her face laughed in. From beginning to end the exercise was a distasteful charade of what justice is supposed to mean. The Magistrate’s court itself is dirty, cramped, smelly and rundown. If that’s the kind of court we have, is it any wonder we get rotten justice out of it?

One comment to “Zimbabwe ISO 46 charged with treason”

  1. Comment by Tweets that mention Kubatana.net speaks out from Zimbabwe » Blog Archive » Zimbabwe ISO 46 charged with treason -- Topsy.com:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Martha Allen, WIFP, Dan Moshenberg. Dan Moshenberg said: #Zimbabwe ISO 46 charged with treason http://tinyurl.com/49u95cv [...]