EMBATTLED MDC MP, Joanna Mamombe (27) and party colleagues, Cecilia Chimbiri (31) and Netsai Marova (25) will spend the weekend in jail after their bail ruling was postponed to Monday.
The three were on Friday hauled before Harare magistrate Bianca Makwande facing a charge of publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the state and another of defeating course of justice.
The state alleges that the three made headlines which were aimed at tarnishing the image of the Emmerson Mnangagwa led government through faking an abduction.
It is state’s cases that Mamombe and accomplices were captured on CCTV at Belgravia Shopping Centre in Harare at a time they were claiming to have been in the hands of their abductors.
Prosecutor Charles Muchemwa told court there are witnesses who saw the trio driving in Mamombe’s car in the capital at a time they claimed they had been held captive.
Their lawyer, Jeremiah Bamu raised complaints over the manner with which his clients were arrested saying police physically and sexually harassed the three.
He accused the police of inhumane treatment saying they were pushing Chimbiri who had walking difficulties when they arrested the trio.
According to the state, on May 13 2020, the three faked their abduction after staging a demonstration in Harare’s Warren Park suburb.
The state alleged that on the same day the three advised their legal practitioners and family members through telephone, text messages and WhatsApp that they had been arrested by the police at Showgrounds roadblock and they were at Harare Central police station.
It is state’s case that upon receiving the communication from the trio,their lawyer, Bamu reported at CID Law and Order Harare .
Bamu purportedly communicated with Chief Inspector Chibaya telling him that the three had been arrested.
“Checks were made by the police and it was established that accused had not been arrested,” reads part of the outline.
Following this, the alleged fake abduction was widely reported on social media and local newspapers on the same day.
It was reported that the three had been arrested for participating in a demonstration.
According to the state, on May 15 2020 at around 01:00hrs, Bamu called the police informing them that the three activists were at Muchapondwa Business Centre in Bindura, They went to collect them in company of the police.
The three were taken to Parktown Hospital for medical examination after claiming they had been tortured.
According to the state, on May 19 , Marova was interviewed and in her statement, she claimed she had been abducted.
Her co-accused were interviewed on May 25 and they made the same complaints but the state said they lied.
“Investigations conducted by the police established that the accused persons were never abducted but they created or stage managed the kidnapping, in that during the time of the alleged kidnapping, the accused persons visited Belgravia Shopping Centre in Harare.
“At around 16:54 hrs, accused were physically seen by members of the public who will testify that, at Belgravia Shopping Centre , while in a silver Mercedes Benz, registration number AFE 9222 which was being driven by accused 1 (Mamombe) contrary to their claim that they were at an unknown place under unlawful detention,” said the state.
Prosecutors allege that the three were captured in CCTV and the videos will be produced as exhibits.
The state claims that the three damaged the country’s reputation.
Prosecutors said it was worrying to note that several country representatives issued statements condemning the “faked” abductions yet nothing like that occurred.
“The accused had no lawful excuse to communicate any false statement regarding their purported arrest by ZRP, ” said the state.
The three women face up to 20 years in prison or a fine. Their case has become the latest flashpoint in Zimbabwe, with a group of United Nations experts this week speaking out against a “reported pattern of disappearances and torture” by government agents in the southern African nation.
The women already faced charges of contravening Zimbabwe’s coronavirus lockdown. On Friday new charges accused them of making false statements to police “alleging that they had been unlawfully detained or kidnapped by some unknown people who claimed to be police officers.” The women are also accused of intending to incite violence with their statements.
Prosecutor Charles Muchemwa opposed bail, asserting that the trio would flee with the help of foreign embassies before the case is concluded.
Magistrate Bianca Makwande said she will rule on the bail application on Monday, meaning the women will spend the weekend in remand prison.
The women’s lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, described them as “victims who are being turned into villains.” He argued that their arrest was an attempt to “cover up” the abduction.
The women alleged their abductors took them from a police station in May after they were arrested for organizing an anti-government protest.
The women were missing for nearly 48 hours before being released. While they were treated in a hospital for their injuries, they were charged with contravening lockdown regulations by participating in the protest.
Political tensions have been high in Zimbabwe, where an economic crisis highlighted by inflation of above 700% is stoking fresh anti-government sentiment.
Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe told reporters on Wednesday that the alleged abductions had been fabricated and were part of a wider plot to destabilize President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
The minister dismissed “rumors” of an impending coup, saying the government “is stable and peaceful internally.”
Flanked by military and police commanders, Kazembe accused political rivals, local and foreign Christian preachers and foreign embassies of trying to stir up dissent.
Speaking at a ruling party meeting the same day, the president also spoke of a plot against his government which “culminated in the purported abductions.”