THE two suspected witches from Gokwe, arrested in Harare last week, yesterday filed an urgent bail application at the High Court seeking freedom.
The two said they would not plead guilty to witchcraft charges, but only of being possessed by supernatural powers, which was not a crime.
If it were an act of criminality, they said, then all church pastors, bishops and priests who are miracle workers, possessed by spirits beyond their control, would also be committing offences daily.
The lawyer representing Maria Moyo (30) and Chipo Chakaja (26), Tawanda Takaindisa of Mugiya Macharaga Law Chambers, argued in the application that the two were worthy candidates for bail as they were unlikely to abscond, interfere with witnesses or commit further offences.
The two were last week remanded in custody by a Mbare magistrate under the Mental Health Act with orders that they be examined by medical practitioners to establish their mental status.
Takaindisa’s attempt to have them granted bail on Tuesday hit a snag as provincial magistrate Reuben Mukavhi dismissed the application.
In his latest bid yesterday, Takaindisa said the two would not abscond trial if released on bail.
“In particular, they are family women and have a fixed address in Nembudziya, Gokwe,” he said.
He further argued that if suspects facing more serious allegations such as treason like MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai faced in 2003 had been granted bail, it was only logical that the pair should expect to be freed on bail.
“Though admittedly witchcraft in terms of our African customs is a very serious offence, it is humbly submitted that the seriousness of the offence per se is not a good enough reason for denying bail, for bail has been granted in some of the most serious offences like treason (faced by Tsvangirai in 2003),” he said.
The lawyer said his clients would plead “not guilty” to the charge of engaging in a practice commonly associated with witchcraft, but would admit that they were possessed with supernatural powers, which was not a crime.
“Applicants will further tell the court that if their conduct of being possessed with supernatural powers was an act of criminality, then all the pastors, bishops and priests who are miracle workers, possessed by spirits beyond their control would also be committing offences daily,” he said, adding that possession of an owl his clients were found with, was no different from being found in possession of a hen.
Moyo and Chakaja were arrested last Wednesday morning in Budiriro where they were found sitting inside winnowing baskets, naked, save for their undergarments and in possession of such items as a live owl, a baboon’s hand and other materials usually associated with witchcraft.
Their presence triggered pandemonium in the suburb as residents stampeded to catch a glimpse of the rare spectacle.
They are expected to appear in court on September 26 for trial.