HARARE – The Harare High Court on Monday heard long-delayed bail applications by journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume, who were arrested on July 20 and accused of inciting public violence.
Justice Tawanda Chitapi heard the applications separately and reserved judgement to August 6.
Prosecutors say both men incited public violence through social media posts ahead of anti-government protests which had been called for July 31, but their lawyers say the charges are political.
The protests were ruthlessly crushed by the security forces who closed all access to towns and forced residents to stay in their homes. Dozens of opposition activists were arrested and some were abducted and tortured.
Ngarivhume, through his lawyer Moses Nkomo, disowned the Twitter handle which put out the three posts used in court as evidence of incitement.
The two men have been languishing in remand prison since being denied bail by magistrates Ngoni Nduna and Bianca Makwande on grounds that they were a danger to society.
Attempts to secure bail have repeatedly been frustrated by court officials.
Chin’ono’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told Justice Chitapi on Monday that the journalist never called for the violent removal of government. Mtetwa said no evidence had been placed before the court to prove the allegations, and the denial of bail by Nduna was therefore a misdirection.
“The investigating officer accepted there was no mention of violence or anything that points to incitement. He accepted that a government can be lawfully removed from power without going to elections,” she argued.
“We all know July 31 has come and gone. There was no violence or breach of peace, so there was no reason for denying the appellant bail.”
Prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi argued the journalist was not a proper candidate for bail.
“The court aquo did not err. There was no misdirection at all. Fact remains he (Chin’ono) has no respect for constitutional provisions and this is shown by him calling for the government’s removal without an election,” said Mabhaudhi.
The prosecutor added that the convenors or the demonstration had indicated July 31 was only the beginning hence the threat of a violent ouster of Mnangagwa remained.-zimlive