Seventeen suspects arrested on Friday night for staging violent protests that resulted in the vandalism of infrastructure, looting of shops and burning of a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority warehouse in Beitbridge, appeared in court yesterday charged with public violence.
The group is part of a crowd of 71 people arrested on similar charges while protesting theimplementation of Statutory Instrument No 64 of 2016 that removes listed products from the Open General Import Licence so requiring importers to obtain a specific licence.
Among those who appeared in court were two men from Bulawayo – Nqobizitha Mazibeli (26) and Njabulo Ndlovu (30) and Thomas Mweya of Masvingo.
Others are: Hitherton Shoko (44), Daniel Gumbochuma (26), Hendrick Phiri (26), Eddington Matiya (28), Lovemore Mbedzi (27), Edzani Moyo (32), Tshiyoka Muleya (30), Justice Mangezi (32), Miriam Phiri (24), William Rupiya (24), Farai Nyamhuka (23), Nigel Kaseke (29), Raodoff Hurudza (28) and Knowledge Vengesai (39) – all of Beitbridge town.
They were not asked to plead to the charges of public violence when they appeared before Beitbridge resident magistrate Miss Gloria Takundwa, who remanded them in custody to tomorrow.
Mr Godfrey Mutimba represented the group on behalf of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. The gang were escorted to and from court by heavily armed anti–riot police.
Beitbridge area prosecutor Mr Johannes Tlou told the court that on July 1, the gang – some of whom are cross-border traders, vendors and ordinary people – gathered at Beitbridge Border Post main entrance to protest the implementation of the Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016.
He said they were addressed by the Police Officer Commanding Beitbridge, Chief Superintendent Patrick Majuta, to stop the demonstration and that they must disperse since their gathering was unlawful.
He added that after the address the gang turned violent, started singing and throwing stones and missiles towards the police. They also marched, vandalising property including traffic lights along the main highway and barricading the roads using stones and other objects.
The court further heard that they marched in groups with other people who are still at large damaging shops and lootings property. Mr Tlou said they later proceeded to Red Star Wholesale complex which is now being rented for warehouse purposes by Zimra and set it on fire.
He said they also set on fire four forfeited vehicles which were parked outside the building and stoned another 35 vehicles within the same yard thereby extensively damaging them. The suspects were later rounded up by police while targeting other properties