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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • WOZA and MDC activists arrested over constitution discussions
    Violet 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.

    Meanwhile in 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."

    MDC Secretary 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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