HIGH Court judge, Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, yesterday deferred to Monday his ruling on an appeal against refusal of bail for Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Lovemore Matombo and secretary-general Wellington Chibebe by a Harare magistrate.
Hlatshwayo said he wanted to go through the state and the ZCTU leadersâ€™ submissions before making a ruling.
In their application, Matombo and Chibebe argued through their lawyer Alec Muchadehama that they were fit for bail as the state had completed investigations into allegations that the trade unionists had on Workers Day â€” May 1 â€” incited people to rise against the government.
“None of the appellants tried to interfere with the investigations before their arrest,” Muchadehama argued. “In fact, investigations are complete thus there is no possibility of interference.”
The lawyer alleged that magistrate Olivia Marigaâ€™s reasons in denying Matombo and Chibebe bail were vague.
“It is submitted that the learned magistrate seriously misdirected herself in denying the appellants bail pending trial,” Muchadehama argued. “Her reasons are meaningless and at best vague.”
He said in order to deny his clients bail, there must be cogent reasons placed on record that accused were likely to abscond, interfere with investigations or witnesses whilst on bail.
“This is not the case in this matter. None of the above mentioned grounds exists in this case,” Muchadehama argued. “The police reasons for opposing bail areâ€¦insufficient.”
Chibebe â€” a law student with the University of South Africa â€” missed an examination on Wednesday as he was in police custody.
Muchadehama had in the appeal implored the High Court to reverse the lower courtâ€™s decision to enable Chibebe to sit for the examination.
In opposing the application, the Attorney-Generalâ€™s office argued that the release of the accused on bail would undermine or jeopardise the public confidence in the criminal justice system.
It said their release would send wrong signals to “the effect that the courts condone violence by releasing instigator or masterminds of violence leading to mayhem or anarchy” in the country. Matombo and Chibebe were arrested last Thursday.
The two allegedly incited workers to rise against the government during their May Day speeches at Dzivaresekwa Stadium, Harare.
Mariga on Monday denied them bail after the state said it would invoke a law allowing it to overrule the courtâ€™s decision to keep the union leaders in prison even if they were freed.
The arrests of the trade unionists were being viewed as part of a wider crackdown by the government targeting trade unionists, lawyers, journalists and opposition activists since the March 29 harmonised elections.
Meanwhile, police this week intensified their campaign to suppress dissent by picking up the leader of the militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Raymond Majongwe in connection with advertisements on political violence against teachers that were flighted in the media last week.
Majongweâ€™s lawyer Tafadzwa Mugabe told the Zimbabwe Independent that his client was picked up at the High Court where he had gone to attend a refusal of bail appeal by Chibebe and Matombo.
By Lucia Makamure