Harare, Zimbabwe – Activists from the CITIZENS Coalition for Change (CCC), including two lawmakers, Amos Chibaya and Costa Machingauta, were granted bail on Monday after being arrested two weeks ago on allegations of breaching peace during a private party meeting.
The CCC is a political party in Zimbabwe that has been critical of the government and has been involved in various opposition activities. The party has been targeted by the government in the past, with many of its members being arrested and charged with various crimes.
Magistrate Yeukai Dzuda ruled that the evidence presented before her confirmed that the suspects were indeed having a private meeting on private property at the time of their arrest and that they were not a flight risk.
The activists, who are members of the CCC, had been arrested on allegations of violating the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) on the day in question. However, they insisted that their meeting was private and that they had not breached any laws.
The state had opposed bail, arguing that the suspects were a flight risk and that over 500 people had gathered to attend the meeting, which was to be held at Machingauta’s house in a high-density suburb. But Dzuda ruled that the suspects were not a flight risk and that the meeting was indeed private.
Two of the suspects, who are senior citizens aged 81 and 72, were released on free bail, while the others were granted bail of ZW$30,000 each. The activists will return to court on February 3, together with a minor who was previously excused from proceedings after being granted free bail.
The CCC has issued a statement condemning the arrests and calling for the charges to be dropped, stating that the activists were simply exercising their right to freedom of assembly and expression. The party also accuses the government of using the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act as a tool to silence opposition and restrict the democratic rights of citizens.
The case has sparked widespread concern among human rights activists and civil society groups, who fear that the arrests are part of a wider crackdown on political opposition in the country. The international community has also expressed concern, with some calling on the government to respect the rights of citizens and ensure a fair trial for the activists.