Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union Leader Obert Masaraure Convicted for Obstructing Justice

May 22, 2024
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Obert Masaraure, a prominent trade union leader and pro-democracy activist, has been convicted of defeating or obstructing the course of justice by Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka. The president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) was found guilty on Wednesday following a trial in which he denied the charges.

Masaraure was arrested on July 8, 2022, after posting a message on his X handle (formerly Twitter) demanding the release of fellow activist and trade union colleague Robson Chere. The charges were based on allegations that his social media post was intended to prejudice his and Chere’s pending trial and incite public violence.

The incident stems from the mysterious death of ARTUZ member Roy Issa, who died after falling from the seventh floor of a Harare hotel. Although an inquest ruled out foul play, police controversially reopened the case and charged Masaraure and Chere with murder.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Masaraure’s statement, published on X and the ARTUZ website, was aimed at influencing the trial’s outcome and provoking violence among teachers’ union members and the public. Despite his defense, the court found him guilty under Section 184(1)(c) of the Criminal Code.

The conviction has sparked outrage among human rights advocates and members of ARTUZ, who have condemned the verdict as a miscarriage of justice. In a statement, ARTUZ described Masaraure’s conviction as a “travesty of justice” and reaffirmed their commitment to fighting against the criminalization of labor activism.

“This verdict is seen by many as a troubling case and a travesty of justice, as Masaraure is a vibrant trade union leader who has advocated for the rights and welfare of rural teachers in Zimbabwe,” the statement read. “As ARTUZ, we remain unshaken and will continue the fight against all injustices and the criminalization of labor acts.”

Masaraure has been remanded in custody and is scheduled for sentencing on Thursday morning at the Harare Magistrates Court. His conviction adds to a series of legal challenges he faces, including charges of subversion and breaching COVID-19 safety regulations. The outcome of his sentencing is being closely monitored by both his supporters and critics.