Harare – A court in Zimbabwe on Tuesday sentenced four villagers who were displaced by floods last year to five years in jail each for taking part in demonstrations that rocked the camp they and thousands of others were sheltering in.
Collen Maboke, a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said he was surprised by the judgment handed down in a magistrate’s court in the south-eastern town of Chiredzi.
“We are not satisfied with the judgment,” Maboke told Sapa.
“We are going to note an appeal as soon as possible.”
Around 3 000 families lost their homes in floods in February 2014 in the Tokwe-Mukorsi basin near a new dam south of Masvingo city. A camp was set up at Chingwizi to provide temporary shelter to the displaced – but tempers ran high when officials tried to relocate the villagers.
Some alleged they were being blackmailed to work on farms linked to the ruling Zanu-PF party. Many said they had been promised independent plots and did not want to move until they had been compensated.
Two police vehicles were torched during a demonstration in August.
Initially 300 people were rounded up by police, but only 30 went on trial on charges of public violence in November. Twenty-six of them were acquitted at the close of the state’s case, Maboke said.
“We proceeded to the defence case with four accused persons. They are the ones who’ve been convicted [and sentenced],” he said.
He said the four who had been convicted included a 42-year-old mother of two minor children and a 44-year-old father of seven children.
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