The conviction on Wednesday of MDC Alliance youth activist Makomborero Haruzivishe on charges of inciting violence and resisting arrest is designed to “send a chilling effect” to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s critics, the MDC Alliance has charged.
Haruzivishe faces up to 20 years in prison when magistrate Judith Taruvinga delivers sentence next Tuesday.
“We’re extremely concerned by the weaponisation of the law against our members, especially Mako, who is a victim of political persecution,” said Fadzayi Mahere, the MDC Alliance spokesperson.
“Mako is a well-known activist who is being targeted because he is vocal about the poverty, injustice and corruption faced by the citizens and because he is a member of the MDC Alliance.
“This is intended to send a chilling effect to our youth activists and to silence dissent. We will pursue multiple strategies to challenge these threats to our democracy.”
Prosecutors charged Haruzivishe with two counts of incitement to commit public violence and resisting a peace officer over an incident at the corner of First Street and Nelson Mandela on February 5 last year.
On the incitement charge, it was alleged that four uniformed police officers were “arresting some vendors sprouting in the CBD… which did not go well with Haruzivishe who started mobilising members of the public by whistling a whistle code trying to canvas them to revolt against the police officers.”
The 29-year-old, it was further alleged, “went on to throw some stones towards the police officers and their vehicle.”
On the second count of resisting arrest, it was alleged that Haruzivishe “resisted” arrest by a police officer identified as Constable Rayson Davison.
“He became violent and vicious shouting on top of his voice saying in Shona, ‘Munotisungirei? Munota kutiwachisa chete’ (Why are you arresting us? You just want to fix us). He was later on overpowered by the police officers and was arrested,” the National Prosecuting Authority charged.
Haruzivishe denied both charges, telling his trial that he was coming out of a Chicken Inn fast-food outlet at about 10.30AM when he saw police officers arresting vendors. He said a police officer who knew him approached and said “we know you MDC people, you’re a problem” before snatching his phone.
He testified that when he shouted at the police officer to return his phone, while following him, he was surrounded by other police officers and arrested.
Convicting the activist, magistrate Taruvinga said “circumstantial evidence pointed to his guilt.”
Taruvinga was not persuaded by Haruzivishe’s defence that he was only in town for breakfast at Chicken Inn, describing his narrative as “highly suspicious.”
The magistrate said the fact that Haruzivishe was in the Harare CBD when vendors were clashing with police suggested that he had travelled into town with sole intention to incite the street hawkers to be violent.
Haruzivishe’s lawyer Kossam Ncube said they would be appealing against both conviction and whatever sentence is passed on April 6.
The MDC Alliance said there was “no evidence connecting Haruzivishe to the running battles between the police and the vendors.” Mahere noted that “vendors had running battles with the police as they often do when they’re attacked for ‘illegal vending’.”
MDC Alliance vice president and rights lawyer Tendai Biti tweeted that “the conviction is fatally flawed and will be set aside by any reasonable appeal court.”
“Circumstantial evidence can only stand if it excludes every other reasonable explanation. Mako’s explanation of why he was there cannot possibly be said to be wrong or fanciful,” Biti said.