HARARE – In a court development that left the defence team fuming on Friday, a Harare magistrate deferred the trial of incarcerated activist clergyman Patrick Phillip Mugadza — who earlier this year made a controversial “prophesy” that President Robert Mugabe would die this year.
Mugadza has been wasting away in remand prison since January 19 when he was charged and then denied bail following his arrest for his “prophesy”. He will continue to languish in prison for at least the next two weeks after the court said it was too busy to deal with his matter.
In denying him bail, the court also noted that Mugadza had other pending cases, and as such, was likely to engage in similar law breaches if he was freed
Harare magistrate Lazini Ncube postponed the start of his trial to February 20, condemning the outspoken Remnant Church pastor to yet more jail time.
Mugadza’s lawyer, Obey Shava — of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights — was not amused by the postponement, as he felt his client was being “over-detained due to no fault of his own”.
The well-known “Mugabe must go” churchman was first remanded in custody to February 3, before the matter was postponed to February 10 and now to February 20.
“I am really concerned that the matter is being postponed all the time. Hopefully, on the 20th the matter will be prioritised as per the State’s undertaking.
“In the event that they don’t prioritise it, I will make an application that he be removed from remand because the trial has not commenced due to no fault of his own,” Shava said.
Mugadza first hit the headlines in December 2015 when he mounted a one-man protest against Mugabe in Victoria Falls during Zanu-PF’s national conference at the resort, where he held a placard that read: “Mr President, the people are suffering. Proverbs 21:13”.
In April last year, he also chained himself to a pole while holding a cross in a hand and a bible in another, in a daring protest action in Harare.
This time, the Remnant Church pastor is being charged with “criminal insult”, as well as undermining the authority of the president over his controversial prophecy which has caused palpable anger within sections of Zanu PF — which is riven with its seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars.
The outspoken Mugadza faces six months imprisonment, or a fine of $200 if he is convicted under Section 33 of the Criminal Law.
In his staggering “prophecy”, Mugadza had claimed he had received a revelation that Mugabe would die in October this year.
However, he had also said that the nonagenarian could escape death by praying fervently, fasting and publicly announcing that he did not wish to die.
“I am not saying I am going to be killing him on October 17, so there is no way anybody can say to me what you have done is wrong. I am not going to be killing anybody, I am only saying what God told me, that he is going to die,” he said then.
This week, another activist cleric, Evan Mawarire, heaved a huge sigh of relief after he was granted bail by the High Court which quashed an earlier decision by a Harare magistrate to deny him bail.
The founder of the #ThisFlag movement had been arrested on February 1 at the Harare International Airport upon his surprise return from the United States of America where he had been living in self-imposed exile.
Mawarire is facing allegations of trying to subvert a constitutionally-elected government, which could see him serve up to 20 years in prison if convicted.