HARARE – Prominent MDC Alliance activist Makomborero Haruzivishe was granted bail by the High Court on the last of his three pending criminal cases on Friday – ending his nearly 10-month pre-trial incarceration on Friday.
The 29-year-old was ordered released on Z$20,000 bail by Justices Rodgers Manyangadze and Joseph Chilimbe sitting on appeal.
The judges heard arguments from prosecutor Moleen Mutamangira and defence lawyers Lovemore Madhuku and Simon Chabuka before making a ruling in a courtroom packed with MDC Alliance activists.
Haruzivishe faces kidnapping charges with an alternative charge of participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence over allegations that he chain-locked employees of Impala Car Rental inside their shop in central Harare while protesting the arrest of student leader Takudzwa Ngadziore.
Ngadziore had been seized and beaten days earlier by state security agents outside another Impala facility. The students were protesting the abduction and torture of Midlands State University student Tawanda Muchehiwa, who was found three days later barely clinging to life.
Madhuku told the judges that over a dozen others charged with Haruzivishe were granted bail in November last year, and the activist “must be treated the same.”
“He has already been admitted to bail in respect of two other cases and the other case was handled by this court,” the lawyer added.
The judges asked “what can be the court’s comfort in releasing him considering he has other cases.”
“He is facing political charges,” Madhuku said. “He’s being punished for his activism. It’s not serial offending when you are consistent in activism, which he is.
“He is doing it within the confines of the law, except for a case in which he has already been convicted. However, he has already shown the court that he has prospects of success after he was granted bail pending appeal.”
Madhuku maintained that no kidnapping happened, even as he admitted that was a “triable issue” which would be settled at trial.
The judges asked Madhuku to explain why Haruzivishe had not filed an appeal at the High Court for 10 months since his arrest.
“He was facing three different offences. The second offence (participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence), which I’m calling political activism, the lawyers thought it did not make any sense to make an application because he already had his bail cancelled,” Madhuku said.
“I would say it’s the sin of the legal practitioners, not that the applicant was wrong.”
The judges also questioned why the lawyers had not applied for a declarator that there was no offence committed in all the cases, noting that he had been arrested “over and over on similar charges.”
Madhuku responded that “there has not been active life for my client since he has been behind bars for a very long time.”
The judges said Haruzivishe’s offences “tend to stray to the issue of public disorder and not only political activism” and said the court needed assurance his release would not lead to the disturbance of public peace.
Madhuku said Haruzivishe would conduct his activism “within the confines of the constitution” and also abide by his bail conditions.
“We should not keep young applicants like him in custody in this country without giving them an opportunity. I pray that, for the record, that assurance has been given. He will abide by the bail conditions,” the lawyer added.
According to conditions of his release, Haruzivishe must reside at his given address in Mt Pleasant and report twice weekly to the police.