BY TATENDA CHITAGU
Sheila Chisirimhuru, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz)’s Masvingo provincial gender welfare secretary, who was sentenced to 16 months in prison over a peaceful salary protest held last July, has been granted bail at the High Court pending appeal against both sentence and conviction.
Magistrate Mbonisi Ndlovu handed down the sentence on December 18 and she spent Christmas and New Year holidays behind bars after her appeal at the lower court was quashed.
Her co-accused, Artuz president Obert Masaraure was acquitted.
They were being charged with violating section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) for “participating in a gathering with intent to cause public violence, breach of peace or bigotry”.
Chisirimhuru (53), a widowed teacher, denied the charges.
Her lawyer Martin Mureri said the magistrate erred as the demonstration was peaceful, permissible according to the Constitution and the sentence did not take into consideration other options like a fine or community service.
Masvingo High Court judge Justice Neville Wamambo yesterday ended Chisirimhuru’s 19-day incarceration, saying her appeal had prospects of success.
Justice Wamambo ordered her to pay $2 000, reside at her given address and report once every last Friday of the month at Masvingo Central Police Station and not to interfere with State witnesses.
In her appeal, she pleaded that she was the breadwinner and had children to look after.
Her jailing courted local and international condemnation among trade unionists and civic society activists who argued that the State was criminalising trade unionism.
Teachers are demanding at least US$520 a month.