Ten women facing criminal nuisance charges following their were arrest during a protest outside the venue of an international cricket match earlier this month, had the charges dropped after a Bulawayo magistrate acceded to their application for refusal of further remand.
Magistrate Batanai Tuwe handed down the ruling and dismissed the charges against the 10 women after the state had accepted that they had no case to answer.
The 10, including director Jenni Williams of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise, were arrested after they staged a protest at the venue of an international cricket match between Zimbabwe and New Zealand.
The women, out on free bail, had applied for refusal of further remand, arguing that they had no case to answer.
They had also filed a formal complaint to the court about the conditions of the cells in which they were held as well as the fact that they were forced to remove their underwear while in custody.
Prosecutor Nkathazo Dlodlo had initially acceded to the dropping of the charges against nine of the women, but had said that Williams had a case to answer, asking the court to allow him to bring more facts against the accused.
But Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ Lizwe Jamela, one of the lawyers representing the women, opposed Dlodlo’s reasoning, arguing that it was inconceivable for the court to uphold charges against Williams when her colleagues facing similar had been let go.
Jamela also argued that the state had not directly responded to the issues raised by the accused in their application for refusal of further remand, including a formal complaint to the court about the conditions of the cells in which the women were held as well as the fact that they were forced to remove their underwear while in custody.
Magistrate Tuwe then ruled that charges against Williams be dropped as well, and agreed with Jamela that the state could not bring new charges against her, advising that it could proceed by way of summons.
Williams told Studio 7 that she was happy with the ruling.
Jamela said while he was also happy for his clients, he was worried by the apparent unwillingness by the police and the state to uphold the provisions of the constitution, which he said is very clear about citizens’ right to demonstrate peacefully.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance has issued a statement condemning what it says is police’s abuse of citizens’ right to protest or petition those in authority.
Director of the Allience, Reverend Useni Sibanda, told Studio 7 that their statement comes amid increasing reports of beatings by police of citizens staging demonstrations.
The country has in recent months been experiencing a wave of protests against the prevailing socio-economic situation in the country with police beating and injuring some of the protesters in the process.