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Seventeen MDC-T activists including Highfield East Member of Parliament Erick Murai – arrested at the weekend in Hopley, Harare South district for convening an illegal gathering – remained in police custody yesterday and are expected to appear in court today.
The 17 activists were engaged in running battles with the police as they insisted on holding the rally after they were warned by police it had not been sanctioned.
Murai is also the opposition party’s provincial chairperson for Harare province and was arrested in Harare South, the venue of the intended rally.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said yesterday police were finalising investigations.
“They will appear in court tomorrow (today). They are being charged for contravening Section 37 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act for participating in an illegal gathering, causing public violence and a breach of peace,” said Snr Ass Comm Charamba.
She said the MDC-T had applied to hold a rally, but was turned down in the wake of last week’s fracas when Zanu-PF supporters and MDC-T activists clashed at the same venue.
In last week’s clash, the MDC-T insisted that they had been cleared by police while Zanu-PF said they wanted to convene a meeting to audit their structures, a process the party said was ongoing.
Zanu-PF supporters had urged MDC-T activists to hold their rally some distance away from their venue, which they regarded as a private school owned by a member of the revolutionary party.
MDC-T spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu said the activists did not commit any crime.
“The police as the regulatory authority called our provincial chairperson, Murai, late on Saturday inviting him to their offices to advise him that they had turned down our application for a rally. It was too late for Honourable Murai to advise our supporters and he had to drive the following morning to tell them of the cancellation. That was when the police swooped on our supporters including the Honourable MP,” said Mr Gutu.
“The problem is that unlike our counterparts in Zanu-PF, we do not have radio or television stations to advise our members of such changes except to drive around but it was already late. Our supporters will deny the charge in court.”
Police had to be called in to qrestore order in Harare South in scenes that left a trail of destruction of homesteads and shops.
Meanwhile, a Zanu-PF youth yesterday appeared in court for allegedly stoning MDC-T supporters and disrupting their rally in Harare South constituency.
Antony Heavens Gono of Plot No. 2 Hopley appeared before Mbare magistrate Ms Anita Tshuma charged with disrupting a political gathering.
He denied the charges and was remanded to November 23 on $50 bail.
As part of his bail conditions Gono was ordered not to interfere with witnesses and to reside at the address he gave to the court.
Prosecutor Mr Tafara Chirambira alleged that on November 1 at Rising Star Primary School in Hopley Zone 5, Gono connived with five other men to disrupt a rally organised by MDC-T.
It is alleged that Gono and his accomplices camped at the school before the arrival of MDC-T supporters.
The court heard that their intention was to disrupt the rally that was scheduled to take place at the school.
Allegations are that upon the arrival of MDC-T supporters, Gono and his team snatched the MDC-T flag from one of the supporters and began to stone them.
It is the State’s case that other MDC-T members fled the scene and the intended rally was called off.
Gono was later arrested following investigations.