Leader of the 1980 Freedom Movement Francis Danha who was arrested after staging a protest during a peace pledge in Harare on Tuesday is contesting his prosecution over disorderly conduct charges arguing he was exercising his freedom of expression.
Danha was brought to the Harare Magistrates’ Courts yesterday after his arrest by Law and Order officers. He was released by the court to his lawyer Itai Ndudzo after presenting his defence during the vetting process.
“My client was arrested by the Law and Order department and charged under section 41(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act),” Ndudzo said.
“The police were alleging that he intentionally engaged in conduct that was disorderly and riotous before a warned and cautioned statement was recorded.
“In the statement we told the police that he is guaranteed to freedom of expression and had a right to express his political opinion and a political meeting that he had even been invited to.
“When we arrived at court and presented our defence the prosecution took the view that they needed to interrogate and see if the matter should proceed to be heard in court. Pending that, he has been released into my custody as State will proceed by way of summons.”
During the peace pledge, Danha allegedly demanded the recusal of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba, for allegedly bungling the voters’ roll and tilting the electoral field in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF.
Chigumba had just taken to the podium to address political parties when Danha interrupted her on a presumed point of order, arguing the Zec chair had no moral ground to preach peace to the political parties.
“I protest, you have to take me out of this room because this is out of order . . . Chigumba is worse than a Grade 1 teacher who doesn’t start a class without taking a register,” he yelled, before police details stepped in to violently eject him before arresting him.
The peace pledge proceedings did continue with parties appending their signatures to the document, expected to stimulate a peaceful environment ahead of the July 30 elections.
During the signing ceremony, Chigumba came under fire from the main contenders to the polls who singled out Zec, Zanu-PF and the security services as the major stumbling blocks to a peaceful election.