Munyaradzi Gwisai, coordinator of Zimbabwe’s International Socialist Organisation (ISO), finally got his day in court on Wednesday of last week. His blunt statement from the dock that “Mugabe must go” stunned prosecutor Michael Reza into silence. But it led to cries of jubilation from the public gallery.
Munyaradzi is one of six socialists on trial for “conspiring to commit public violence”.
They were among 50 people rounded up in February last year when police raided an ISO meeting showing footage of revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.
The majority of those arrested were held in prison, tortured and initially charged with treason, which carries the death penalty.
One of the 50, David Mpatsi, died after this treatment.
Charges against all but six were dropped and the charge was reduced for the remaining defendants. But they could still face ten years in prison.
The trial has been constantly delayed. The defendants are finally able to put their case more than a year after the original raid.
The defence argued that the case should be thrown out of court because the state’s case is so weak.
It relies on the evidence of a witness who lied about his name and job. Last month the magistrate said the case should continue.
A government spy in the ISO meeting had told the court that Munyaradzi called for president Robert Mugabe to go and labelled prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai a stooge of the West.
Munyaradzi replied, “I never said that about Tsvangirai. As for Mugabe, what I said and believe is that he has ruled for more than 30 years as prime minister and president and has now turned 88 years old.
“In all republican democratic principles, starting with the Roman Republic of the 5th century BC, in order to curb potential abuse of power by individuals there were caps on terms of individuals.
“And indeed with our society, there is a consensus that no leader must rule for more than two terms or over ten years.
“So yes, President Mugabe must go. He has served his time and in the new constitution we must ensure that no leader serves for more than two terms.”
When Reza had recovered from his shock at hearing such a statement made in public, he asked if Munyaradzi thought Mugabe was a dictator.
The defendant replied, “I would call him an authoritarian leader.”
The prosecutor asked if Munyaradzi was aware that president Mugabe was democratically elected.
Munyaradzi told the court, “I am not aware. President Mugabe himself has demanded the urgent holding of elections this year.
“He knows the current inclusive government is as a result of a political agreement and not the mandate of the people.”
The prosecutor asked if it was not odd for people in Zimbabwe to meet to build solidarity with faraway movements. Munyaradzi said, “There is nothing odd about it.
“No less a person than President Mugabe has condemned other African leaders for not working in solidarity when one of their colleagues was attacked and killed and surely that cannot be bad about the working class in Zimbabwe.”
The meeting was raided before Munyaradzi delivered his talk.
He told the court, “I was supposed to speak in general about events in Tunisia and Egypt in relation to the global financial crisis, the state of capitalism globally today and the responses of the working classes as well as the relationship of the above events to the struggle for democracy and constitutionalism in Africa and Zimbabwe.”
Munyaradzi reminded the court that the meeting had also been organised to commemorate the death of Navigator Mungoni, an Aids activist and ISO member.
Defendant Tafadzwa Choto told Socialist Worker, “We have all now finished giving our evidence and have been cross examined.
“We are waiting for a court ruling on 19 March. So we have another two hellish weeks of waiting.”
Send money to support the defendants to:
ISO Zim Solidarity, Unity Bank, Birmingham.
Sort Code: 08-60-01,
account number: 20136938.
For international payments:
Swift Code: CPBKGB22,
IBAN number: GB11
CPBK 0800 5150 0732 10