A Bulawayo magistrate has acquitted activist Josphat “Mzaca” Ngulube who was facing a charge of leading an illegal demonstration against the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
Ngulube (34), was arrested in July at corner 10th Avenue and Fort Street near Pick and Pay Supermarket, where he had allegedly convened a public demonstration with about 30 people gathered.
Ngulube had pleaded not guilty to a charge of failure to give notice of a public gathering.
The acquittal has lifted a ban against Ngulube from partaking in any form of demonstrations that had been set as part of his bail conditions.
Magistrate Lizwe Jamela let Ngulube walk free, Friday, at the close of the State case, citing there was no incriminating evidence against him.
Through his lawyer Kholwani Ngwenya of TJ Mabhikwa and Partners, in his application for discharge at the close of the State case, had noted that Ngulube was arrested an hour before the stated time of the commencement of the demonstration.
Ngwenya further argued that contrary to state allegations that Ngulube was leading almost 30 people during the demonstration, there is no evidence how many people had attended and who they were.
“It is not in dispute that the alleged scene is located at a public commuter omnibus rank. It is a very busy place with a lot of vehicular and human traffic commonly associated with a lot of commuters disembarking and embarking public transport. No evidence thus proves the members of the public there had been convened by Ngulube,” he said.
State representative Grace Zhou told the court Ngulube’s notice which he submitted to the police on July 13, seeking to demonstrate on July 17 was rejected as it was on short notice.
“The regulating authority noted the accused had not given the 7-day notice as required by the law. He was contacted and advised that the time of notice was not in compliance with the law and so the route which they were to use amongst other requirements was not stated,” said Zhou.
Zhou said on July 15 Ngulube was invited to the regulating officer’s office for consultations and amendment of his notice to meet the dictates of the law but he refused.
“On July 17 at around 12 midday at corner 10th Ave and Fort Street near pick and pay, Ngulube went ahead and convened a public demonstration where members of the public amounting to about 30 people gathered,” she said.
“Shelton Tembo and Goodson Phiri displayed a banner inscribed with the following; citizens demonstration, we have suffered enough, this nonsense must stop!!! Our voices will not be silenced and Zimbabweans need solutions to the economic crisis now.”
Ngulube is facing another charge of participating in the violent protests that occurred in January.
He and four other assailants are accused of burning a vehicle belonging to Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial women’s league chairperson Eva Bitu in Sizinda.
A ruling on the matter is set to be delivered on November 11, 2019.