MASVINGO High Court Judge Justice Neville Wamambo on Tuesday 5 January 2021 ended the 18-day detention of Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) Masvingo executive member and schoolteacher Sheila Chisirimunhu (pictured, left), who had been sentenced to serve 16 months (10 effective) in prison after she was convicted for participating in a protest demanding improved salaries and working conditions for teachers.
The 53 year-old Chisirimunhu, who is a widow, and is represented by Martin Mureri of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, petitioned the Masvingo High Court on 31 December 2020 seeking to be admitted on bail pending the determination and outcome of her appeal against both conviction and sentence. The ARTUZ leader was sentenced to serve 16 months in prison in 18 December after Masvingo magistrate Mbonisi Ndlovu found her guilty of participating in a gathering “with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act”.
Chisirimunhu was arrested in June 2020 together with Obert Masaraure, the ARTUZ President, after they allegedly participated in a demonstration held in Masvingo, where teachers protested against poor salaries and unfavourable working conditions and demanded to be paid a monthly salary amounting to US$520.
Her appeal against both conviction and sentence, which was filed by Mureri at Masvingo High Court is yet to be set down for hearing.
While Chisirimunhu was jailed, Masaraure was set free by the same court as during the trial, the three state witnesses in the case (all police officers) told the prosecutors that they did not know Masaraure and were unaware of reasons for his arrest. The prosecutor wrote to Law & Order Section (which had made the arrests) inquiring why they had arrested him. Law & Order claimed to have seen a picture of him on the social media.
Justice Wamambo ordered Chisirimunhu to post bail of RTGS$2 000 and to report at Chesvingo Police Station in Masvingo once every last Friday of the month.
Justice Wamambo also ordered Chisirimunhu to continue residing at her given residential address until the finalisation of her appeal lodged at Masvingo High Court against both conviction and sentence.