KARIBA Magistrate Toendepi Zhou on Monday 13 March 2017 acquitted Courage Mushunje, a 25 year-old man, who had been on trial for insulting and disrespecting the country’s national flag.
Mushunje, an unemployed resident of Zvishavane in Midlands province, was arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers in Kariba in Mashonaland West province on Wednesday 08 March 2017 and charged him with contravening Section 6 of the Flag of Zimbabwe Act Chapter 10:10 after he allegedly insulted and disrespected the flag by keeping on walking while the national flag was being hoisted down at Kariba Border Post.
During trial, State prosecutor Temptation Maromo claimed that Mushunje failed to respect the national flag as he kept walking while the national flag was being hoisted down by Liberty Kahiya, a security guard employed by Sencire Security and despite being given signs to stop and stand at attention as other citizens were doing.
But Mushunje was discharged at the close of the State case by Magistrate Zhou after his lawyer Unite Saizi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) filed an application for discharge on the basis that the State represented by Maromo had failed to prove a prima facie case against the Zvishavane resident.
Magistrate Zhou concluded that no reasonable court acting carefully would convict the accused person on the basis of evidence led from the two witnesses namely Kahiya and Constable Edmore Chiduku from ZRP Border Control Unit in Kariba.
Magistrate Zhou found that without the evidence of a Central Intelligence Organisation operative only identified as Dandara, who arrested Mushunje and also Jane Katomba, a security guard who was in the company of Kahiya and who was said to have cautioned Mushunje as to why he continued walking when the flag was being hoisted down, the State faced a big task in proving a prima facie case against the accused person thus it was not prudent to convict Mushunje on the basis of the evidence led.
According to ZLHR’s records, Mushunje becomes the third person to be rescued by the human rights organisation in recent months after being arrested and charged with insulting and disrespecting the national flag.
In November 2016, ZRP officers arrested Remnant Pentecostal Church leader Pastor Phillip Mugadza before apprehending Pastor Evan Mawarire of His Generation Church in February 2017 and charged them with insulting, showing disrespect and bringing the flag into disrepute after they draped themselves with the country’s national flag while protesting against President Robert Mugabe’s government.