LAWYERS representing four University of Zimbabwe students who were arrested on May 17 on allegations of protesting opposition legislator Job Sikhala’s continued pretrial incarceration have raised concern over undue delays in their bail determination.
Emmanuel Sitima, Comfort Ncekuyenkosi Mpofu, Tawanda Benjamin Watadza and Lionel Andrew Madamombe are facing charges of malicious damage to property — alternatively criminal nuisance — for allegedly defacing public buildings in central Harare during protests for the release of Sikhala.
They made their initial appearance in court on May 19 and more than 10 days later, no determination on bail has been made as the State keeps shifting goalposts.
In a letter dated May 30, addressed to the Harare provincial magistrate, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (NGO Forum) executive director Musa Kika said: “We are concerned about what we consider undue delays in the treatment and determination of bail for our clients, who were arrested on May 17, 2023 and to this day, bail proceedings are meant to be finalised on account of delays for which we think should, and can be avoided, given that bail proceedings are inherently urgent.”
“We have been instructed by the four accused persons to bring to your attention their concerns about the undue delays in dispensing with the bail proceedings in the matter in view of the urgency and importance attached to bail proceedings in terms of the law.
“Section 50(1)(d) of the Constitution provides that any continued detention of an accused person must be on the basis of compelling reasons. Bail is inherently urgent and section 117A (3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:071 which regulates bail applications states that every application in terms of subsection (2) shall be disposed of without undue delay.”
He said it was shocking that the quartet continued to be denied bail on flimsy grounds.
The matter is set to be heard on Thursday.
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