By Tendai Rupapa
Evan Mawarire of the shadowy #ThisFlag campaign, who was facing charges of undermining a constitutionally-elected Government, was yesterday freed after his lawyers challenged his placement on remand.
When Mawarire was brought to court in the morning, he was being charged with inciting public violence, but when he appeared before magistrate Mr Vakayi Chikwekwe in the afternoon, the State had altered his charge to subverting a constitutionally-elected Government.
Mr Chikwekwe ruled that placing Mawarire on remand on a charge he was not aware of was a violation of his Constitutional rights.
He said the State was in contravention of Section 50 and 70 of the new Constitution which states that a person must be informed of his charge at the time of arrest.
“According to the new Constitution, a person must be permitted to challenge the lawfulness of the arrest,” he said.
“Accused was detained in respect of charges of inciting public violence according to his warned and cautioned statement. For reasons best known to the National Prosecuting Authority, the State for the first time in court preferred charges which accused was not informed of or warned or cautioned of. No statement was recorded from him.
“With respect to this, it is in conflict with section 50 (1) and also sec 70 of the Constitution. The Constitution is the supreme law of the country in terms of section 2 and it is binding on every person including the state.
“It is my finding that the NPA cannot charge the accused without complying with provisions of sec 50 and 70 of the Constitution. In the result the application to place him on remand on charges subverting a constitutionally elected Government is hereby dismissed.”
Prosecuting Mr Jonathan Murombedzi and Mr Sebastian Mutizirwa applied for placement of Mawarire on remand on the serious charge and advised the court that Mawarire was to approach the High Court for bail issues since his charge was a third schedule offence.
Mawarire’s lawyers led by Mr Harrison Nkomo, Irene Petras and Dzimbabwe Chimbwa challenged the placement of their client on remand on the basis that the State had ambushed him with new charges which he was not aware of.
The courtroom was for a moment turned into a church with several people taking turns to pray for Mawarire while the magistrate was in his chambers preparing the ruling.
It is the State’s case that between July 1 and 6, Mawarire incited Zimbabweans to revolt against a constitutionally elected Government.
It is alleged he urged people not to go to work or schools and to block roads.
Mawarire is also accused of urging people to assault police officers who were maintaining peace.
Source: All Africa