A ZIMBABWEAN court on Wednesday 11 January 2023 convicted Kanyenzura Parere, a local clergyman, of contravening the Maintenance of Peace and Order (MOPO) Act, an obnoxious law, after he allegedly convened and staged an unsanctioned protest against worsening repression in the troubled southern African country.
The 52 year-old Parere, a Bishop of Mirirai Jehovha Apostolic Church, had been on trial since last year, when he was arrested on 9 July 2022 by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers and charged with contravening section 7(1)(5) of MOPO Act.
During trial, which was presided over by Harare Magistrate Tafadzwa Miti, prosecutors alleged that Parere convened a illegal gathering on 9 July 2022 and led an unsanctioned procession of his church members as they marched along Robert Mugabe Way towards Simon Muzenda Street in central Harare, while protesting and singing gospels song with the lyrics “Emmanuel tisunungureiwo tanzwa ne nhamo” loosely translated to “Emmanuel save us from bondage”.
The prosecutors claimed that Parere led a procession of his church members without notifying the regulating authority, which is ZRP.
In his defence, Parere’s lawyer, Evans Moyo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, had asked Magistrate Miti to set his client free arguing that under MOPO Act, the nature of the gathering which he was accused of convening is exempted as an offence as it is a religious gathering.
In convicting Parere, Magistrate Miti ruled that the clergyman had breached the MOPO Act as the piece of legislation only exempts gatherings and not processions from being considered as offences.
Magistrate Miti ruled that a procession such as the one allegedly led by Parere is not a gathering and stated that she believes that the procession by the congregants was not a bonafide religious gathering but a protest given the lyrics to the song “Emmanuel tisunungureiwo tanzwa ne nhamo” loosely translated to mean “Emmanuel save us from bondage”.
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