A freelance journalist who tried to rescue an elderly woman, who had been assaulted by some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers during an anti-government protest held in August is standing trial on charges of committing public violence.
Doubt Asima, a 29 year-old freelance journalist was arrested on Friday 16 August 2019 and charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
In court, prosecutors told Harare Magistrate Richard Ramaboea that Asima and his co-accused Fabian Mushunga, aged 29 years, forcibly disturbed the peace, security, or order of the public by participating in a public demonstration held on Friday 16 August 2019 in Harare.
Prosecutors claimed that Asima and Mushunga, who pleaded not guilty when their trial commenced and who are represented by Jeremiah Bamu and Tinomuda Shoko of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, allegedly engaged in acts of public violence by barricading some streets in central Harare with stones and boulders and also threw some stones at some police officers thereby disturbing the free movement of members of the public and some vehicles.
In his defence, Asima argued that his arrest and prosecution stems from malice and is a result of a desire by ZRP officers to conceal evidence of their wanton assaults and brutality against innocent citizens as one of them had approached and ordered him to stop taking
The freelance journalist stated that as a journalist, he was acting in the scope of his professional trade, gathering newsworthy photograph and he took pictures of some ZRP officers assaulting civilians at Africa Unity Square.
Asima said he noticed an elderly woman who had fallen down in the resultant stampede and rendered her assistance before continuing with his job. It was at this point that police officers approached him and ordered him to delete the photographs he was taking.
However, when Asima refused to delete the photographs, he was immediately arrested by ZRP officers and his protestations that he was a photo-journalist accredited by Zimbabwe Media Commission was not entertained by the law enforcement agents.
In his defence, Mushunga told Magistrate Ramaboea that he was arrested by ZRP officers when he was on his way to his place of residence in Cranborne suburb after collecting various mobile phone handsets from her relative in Belvedere suburb for repair.
Mushunga said he had no knowledge of any demonstration scheduled for Friday 16 August 2019 and was subjected to a stop and seizure by ZRP officers who asked him to produce his national identity document, which he did not have on person. Thereafter, Mushunga was asked to sit down as he had no copy of his national identity document on person and
was bundled into a police truck with other persons whom he did not know and taken to Harare Central Police Station, where he was subsequently advised of his charge.
Besides Asima and Mushunga, 24 other people will stand trial on charges of contravening section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.