The High Court on Friday postponed to next week the bail ruling for detained journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume, who are facing charges of inciting public violence.
The two approached the High Court for bail after the Harare Magistrate Court earlier this week threw out their applications for partial freedom.
After hearing arguments from the State and the applicants in the cases on Friday, the High Court reserved judgment to next week.
The duo were arrested last month on charges of inciting public violence after posting social media messages allegedly encouraging people to take part in banned protests against the government.
The protests, the latest in a series called by the opposition and allied civic groups, were penciled for July 31, but flopped dismally nationwide, leaving egg on the faces of the organisers.
The bail appeal is the duo’s fourth attempt for freedom – twice at the magistrates court and once at the High Court – all in vain so far.
Ngarivhume’s lawyer, Prof Lovemore Madhuku, argued that the magistrate who dismissed his client’s earlier bail application had misdirected himself.
The two want to be granted bail on the basis of changed circumstances, given that the date of the protests they are accused of mobilising people to take part in had past.
But the magistrates court dismissed the applications because, in its view, opposition protest plans were not necessarily time-bound but ongoing.
“We presented our arguments; the appeal was heard by court. We made our arguments why we feel that the judgement of the magistrate Court must be set aside,” Prof. Madhuku said.
“The state responded to the arguments and then the judge reserved judgement. It will be handed down either on Monday or first thing on Tuesday,” he said.
He added: “The magistrate court did not understand the procedures that ought to be followed; our client went there to apply for bail to what is called changed circumstances, seeing that 31 July had passed.
“The court agreed that 31 July had come and gone, the magistrate ought to have then shifted the burden to the state to indicate why it was still opposed to bail. That did not happen; the magistrate simply went on and created a new animal called the 31st July movement. We have said that that’s misdirection.”
Prof. Madhuku said the High Court, in making its ruling, should also consider the number of days Ngarivhume has been in remand without trial when making its decision on the appeal.
Chin’ono’s lawyer, Kudzai Mtisi said: “The issues which were of interest are to do with evidence in the record and what the magistrate said about the evidence. There are 20 pages of evidence which the State even conceded that the magistrate did not make mention of that oral evidence in its findings.”