Harare, (New Ziana) – Two political activists arrested on Monday for allegedly inciting public violence will spend another night in custody after their bail rulings were set for Thursday as courts closed early due to the Covid-19 curfew imposed by government.
The two, Jacob Ngarivhume, of an obscure outfit named Transform Zimbabwe, and journalist-turned political activist Hopewell Chin’ono, are thought to be at the centre of opposition plans to hold anti-government protests on July 31, in contravention of the country’s Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Zimbabwe, like all countries around the world, is in lockdown to try to limit the spread of the pandemic which has killed hundreds of thousands and infected millions globally.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday set stricter lockdown rules and imposed a 12-hour dusk to dawn curfew effective July 22.
Confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been rising sharply in the past month, with new cases averaging 100 a day.
Total cases in the country were 1 820 as of Tuesday, with 26 deaths.
In view of the rising cases of the pandemic, the government has banned public gatherings of more than 50 people for social or political reasons.
But the opposition, under the guise of protesting against corruption in the country, plans to hold month end anti-government marches.
Ngarivhume has been widely quoted in the media in recent weeks threatening the protests on July 31with or without government permission while the state alleges Chin’ono, a prominent social media user, has also been allegedly linked to the planned protests.
The two separately appeared in court for initial bail hearings, with the state opposing bail.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said the hearings will continue on Thursday as courts are closing early due to the curfew restrictions.
“Both Hopewell and Jacob’s bail hearings have been postponed until tomorrow (Thursday) morning on the basis that due to the curfew, courts are closing early,” said Douglas Colart of the ZLHR in a tweet.
“Ruling for Jacob is at 11:15 while continuation of the bail hearing for Hopewell at 8:30AM. They will be detained at Harare Remand Prison tonight (Wednesday).
Previous opposition-led protests have ended in bloodshed, and widespread looting and destruction of property.