HARARE – The organiser of planned anti-government protests and a freelance journalist were charged in court on Wednesday with promoting public violence and will be kept in jail until a bail ruling on Thursday.

Jacob Ngarivhume, the leader of opposition party Transform Zimbabwe and freelance journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono were arrested at their homes on Monday.

In court, state prosecutors accused the two of using their Twitter accounts to mobilise Zimbabweans to commit public violence by encouraging citizens to demonstrate on July 31.

Activists have called for street demonstrations against government corruption, which they say has deepened the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

The two men, who appeared before different magistrates, were not asked to enter a plea. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

State prosecutors opposed bail, saying if they were released Ngarivhume and Chin’ono would flee the country and continue using social media to rally citizens to take part in the planned demonstrations and expose many people to the coronavirus.

A lawyer for the two, Doug Coltart, said the facts presented by the state did not disclose any offence.

Beatrice Mtetwa, a member of Chin’ono’s legal team, complained before magistrate Ngoni Nduna about his arrest, and a mystery visit from an unidentified woman in his police cell at around 4AM on Wednesday.

“The arresting team did not identify themselves to the accused and they did not read the charge to him,” said Mtetwa in court. “We complain that the entire process constitutes an unlawful detention.”

Mtetwa told court that an unknown woman accessed and profiled Chin’ono, and police appeared unaware.

“This the most serious complaint we have because it exposes the suspect to unknown persons. The accused was accessed by this unknown person at a police station, in the cells and still the CID Law and Order is not aware of the incident,” Mtetwa said.

She said Chin’ono could easily be abducted and no-one would know.

“Clearly, there’s a parallel structure that is unknown to the police that does not respect the law and Constitutional provisions,” the lawyer added.

The state said it will not challenge the allegations now because investigations are required. The magistrate gave the state a three-day ultimatum to investigate the allegations.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday announced a night-time curfew and tightened other measures to tackle rising coronavirus infections. He said curtailing freedoms was necessary to curb the pandemic.

But the opposition says the government is using health restrictions to trample on political rights.

Mnangagwa, without providing evidence, accuses the opposition of being part of a plot against his government with the support of some Western countries. – Reuters/Staff Reporter