Jestina case: Zimbabwe coalition in danger, MDC warns

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Former television news anchor Jestina Mukoko and leading human rights activists has been sent back to jail by Harare magistrate. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDCT quickly condemned the latest detention saying it threatens the inclusive government.

“Today’s ruling seriously threatens not only the life and health of the inclusive government, but its longevity and durability,” the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a flagrant disregard to the commitments and agreements” in the power-sharing deal that led to the formation of the unity government in February, it said

Mukoko, with 18 opposition activists facing charges of terrorism we ordered back to jail after they were indicted for trial next month. Mukoko appeared stunned as she heard that her bail was being revoked by magistrate Catherine Chimanda.

Scores of people in the court room also looked shocked.

Ms Chimanda said that she was ordering them back to prison because a formal indictment had been filed a day earlier. The indictment accuses Mukoko and the 18 others of sabotage, terrorism and banditry.

The activists, who also include several opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members, say they were abducted by state security agents from their homes in a series of raids that began last October and held incommunicado in secret locations for weeks.

They were not charged, but say they were beaten on the feet, subjected to simulated drownings, locked in freezers and hung by their wrists to extract false confessions that they had trained as terrorists to overthrow President Mugabe.

Mukoko’s Zimbabwe Peace Project recorded incidents of alleged political violence by the Mugabe regime. Between January and September last year, it recorded 20,143 incidents, including 202 murders, 463 abductions, 41 rapes, 411 cases of torture and 3,942 assaults.

On his first day in office in February, the Prime Minister used his new powers to enter the Chikurubi maximum security prison in Harare to see Mukoko and the other detainees, in a move meant to assert his authority and rebut the perception that he is subordinate to Mugabe.

The suspects were eventually freed on bail at the beginning of March, still without charges having been filed against them.

Alec Muchadehama, one of the defence lawyers said he would appeal for the loss of bail. “We were surprised by the magistrate’s decision as we were making prior arrangements with the state. She just said the matter was now outside her jurisdiction and remanded them in custody,” Alec Muchadehama, one of the defence lawyers, said.

In the statement, MDC-T called for their immediate release. “The MDC calls for the immediate release of all the re-detained activists and also the release of seven MDC activists whose whereabouts remain unknown after they were abducted by state security agents in November and December last year.”

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