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Lawyers to File Bail Application to Free Man Locked Up for 'Circulating Fake' Mnangagwa Lockdown Message

FILE:A man is arrested by police officers after resisting orders to vacate a vegetable market area in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, March 31, 2020, on the second day of a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Laywers representing a man who was arrested for allegedly circulating a fake message about Zimbabwe’s intention to extend its 21-day lockdown, are expected to file a High Court bail application Wednesday seeking to overturn a lower court order to detain him.

Attorney Thomas Machinga told VOA Zimbabwe Service that he is working with some members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in an attempt to seek the release of Lovemore Zvokusekwa from remand prison.

Machinga said, “… Once he was denied bail our only option was then to approach the High Court on appeal. We are working on the bail appeal, now I’m working with two more lawyers who are members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Mr. Jeremiah Bhamu and Mr. Caleb Mutandwa. We are working on the paperwork so that by tomorrow, may be before close of business, we are going to file our bail appeal and may be upon reflection we are also considering taking this matter with the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of Section 31 of the Code.

“As you might be aware, in 2013 the Supreme Court which was our Constitutional Court in terms of the old constitution ruled that some part of Section 31 was unconstitutional. We believe it could be a chance again to take this matter before the Constitutional Court so that the constitutionality of the rest of the section can be considered by the Constitutional Court. That’s where we are. We will be filing this bail appeal tomorrow (Wednesday).”

The 36 year-old Zvokusekwa of Chitungwiza appeared at Harare Magistrates Court on Monday after he was arrested on Saturday by Zimbabwe Republic Police officers, who charged him with publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state as defined in section 31(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

In court, prosecutors alleged that Zvokusekwa peddled falsehoods when he reportedly circulated a false and unsigned press statement purportedly written and issued by President Mnangagwa titled “EXTENSION OF LOCKDOWN PERIOD BY 13 DAYS ONLY” advising people that he had extended the national lockdown period by 13 days from 20 April, 2020, to 3 May, 2020.

Zvokusekwa, prosecutors charged, disseminated the false press statement on different WhatsApp platforms using his Huawei mobile phone handset and yet President Mnangagwa had not written or signed the purported press statement.

Prosecutors said some witnesses who received the false press statement will testify against Zvokusekwa during his trial.

Zvokusekwa will return to court on 13 April.