HARARE – MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere will remain behind bars until Friday after a Harare magistrate deferred his ruling on the politician’s application against placement on remand.
The outspoken lawyer was arrested on Monday and charged with peddling falsehoods after tweeting that a police officer had fatally struck a nine-month-old baby with a baton in Harare following a viral video that showed the enraged mother manhandling the uniformed officer.
MDC Alliance vice chairman Job Sikhala and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono are also in custody on similar charges.
Prosecutors argue the baby in question is alive, and are separately charging the trio with “communicating false statements prejudicial to the State or alternatively undermining public confidence in law enforcement agency.”
But Mahere, like Sikhala and Chin’ono, challenged her incarceration when she appeared before Harare magistrate Trynos Utahwashe saying the statute under which she is charged – Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – was struck down by the Constitutional Court years back.
However, prosecutor Charles Muchemwa countered that the law is still operational and that the MDC Alliance spokesperson had committed a valid offense.
“The accused is being properly charged under the Act as the law has not been expunged under the new Constitution,” Muchemwa told the court.
“The accused person is properly before the court and the charges preferred against her still stand in terms of the law of this country.”
The magistrate deferred his ruling to Friday and ordered the State to investigate complaints by Mahere that she had been subjected to degrading treatment while in custody, and potentially exposed to Covid-19.
“There were no temperature checks or sanitisers at the police entrance,” Mahere complained through her lawyer David Drury.
“No social distancing is practiced in the waiting area or holding cells. No masks are available in the cells and cellmates had old masks.”
She also protested about police not providing female inmates with sanitary ware.
“The toilet was a pit latrine surrounded by a puddle of urine. There is no separation between the beds and toilet walls as well as privacy during menstruation.
“A pungent smell exists because of lack of aeration. The cell blocks are small and seven inmates were crowded in each room. You have to walk barefooted and women take off their undergarments,” Mahere complained.