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and MDC activists arrested over constitution discussions
Gonda, SW Radio Africa
February 02, 2010
22 members of
the pressure group Women
of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) were arrested while holding a structural
meeting on the constitutional reform process in a private home in
Bulawayo on Tuesday. Three days before, 52 MDC activists were arrested
in Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central province, when police broke up
an MDC meeting called to discuss the party's position on the constitution.
The Woza members were later released without charge after spending
two hours in police custody. Woza Coordinator Magodonga Mahlangu
told SW Radio Africa that documentation and other materials to do
with the constitution-making process were confiscated by the police.
However, she said the officer in Charge at Pumula police station
was 'very apologetic' and said there was a 'communication breakdown,'
claiming the police did not realise the women were members of the
pressure group. Mahlangu said the police should stop their selective
application of the law and the arbitrary arrest of Zimbabweans,
whether they are Woza members or not. She said the meeting was a
private gathering of members and was therefore exempt under all
public order laws. The pressure group said it is concerned their
discussion was disrupted at a time when people are supposed to be
discussing and sharing ideas in light of the new constitution that
is supposed to be consulted upon.
Mt Darwin, the MDC said 'gun-toting' police officers disrupted the
meeting which was held at the party's district office last Saturday.
The meeting was to appraise party structures of the MDC's position
on the constitution-making process. It is reported the party's provincial
vehicle, party position papers on the constitution-making process
and about 500 copies of MDC's The Changing Times newsletter were
impounded by the police. The Changing Times said in Tuesday's newsletter:
'There was commotion as police officers force-marched the 52 to
the police station, with the activists vigorously resisting arrest.
The officers viciously assaulted the activists, but released some
without charge. At least 11 were detained, with police accusing
them of being ring-leaders.' The 11, including MDC Provincial Secretary
Jonathan Kapasi and Provincial vice Youth Chairman Norbert Dhokotera,
were detained at Mt Darwin Police Station but were later transferred
to the Law and Order Section at Bindura Police Station. They are
accused of breaching security laws.
The MDC says:
'The meeting in question was lawful in all constitutional respects
because it was an indoor meeting for the MDC, which even under the
draconian Public Order and Security Act requires no prior clearance
by the police. There are fears that this could mark the beginning
of a campaign by Zanu PF to abuse state machinery to stifle the
constitution making process.' The MDC has said its efforts to participate
in this process are being frustrated, despite being a partner in
the inclusive government, while, reportedly, Zanu PF is able to
launch its own parallel processes countrywide without any hindrance.
The MDC paper went on to claim: "20 brand new Nissan twin cab
vehicles have been deployed (by Zanu PF) in the province to ferry
thugs who are intimidating people in the rural and farming community
of the province against participating in the constitutional outreach
meetings due to commence soon."
General Tendai Biti issued a strongly worded statement on Tuesday
saying there has been an acceleration of destruction and insanity
on the part of the former ruling party. He said: "Zanu PF continues
to use the public media, the constitutional process, the commercial
farms, the diamond mines and the civil service as the battlefields
for its destructive agenda aimed at perpetuating their selfish grip
on power. Their determination to enrich themselves at the expense
of national development risks keeping all our citizens mired in
poverty." Biti added: "It is clear to us that Zanu PF
are making a case for the establishment of irreconcilable differences
amongst the parties, leading to a total breakdown of this relationship."
The MDC Secretary General went on to say the onus is now on Zanu
PF to cease their violations of the laws and implement the commitments
they signed up to in the Global Political Agreement. He said if
the former party is not willing to change 'then bring on the election'.
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