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Nango leaders arrested over 'illegal political meeting'
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
October 26, 2009

Two officials from the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (NANGO) were arrested in Victoria Falls on Sunday for allegedly holding a 'political meeting.' NANGO board chairperson Dadirai Chikwengo, and Chief Executive Officer Cephas Zinhumwe, were arrested at the airport when they were trying to leave for Harare after attending a two-day scheduled conference in the resort town on Friday and Saturday.

NANGO Board Secretary Godwin Phiri told SW Radio Africa on Monday: "The police are telling us they violated sections of the Public Order and Security Act. They say they addressed political issues in the meeting."

But Phiri said the group broke no law and that the arrest shows the arbitrary application of the law. "The people were discussing issues that affect them and if it's going to be illegal to talk about these issues that affect us then we have a serious crisis on our hands, if people cannot enjoy basic human rights."

At least 100 delegates participated in the NGO Directors Summer School, that is held annually in the resort town. Phiri said the meeting was not a public gathering but an internal meeting of directors comprising a cross section of NANGO members from NGOs and the civil society. The agenda items included HIV/AIDS, humanitarian relief and rights issues.

The NGOs said the police charges stem from a statement issued by the directors, in which they called for the intervention of SADC and the AU to ensure that the Global Political Agreement was fully implemented.

A statement by NANGO also said: "The arrests came hot on the heels of various news articles and opinion pieces in the state controlled media that attacked NGOs openly, labelling them as working in cahoots with the West and MDC to effect regime change."

Chikwengo and Zinhumwe are represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers' for Human Rights Director Irene Petras, who also attended the annual event organised by NANGO. They are expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the arrest of the civic leaders' followed a police raid on an MDC house in Harare on Friday night. MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti told reporters that more than 50 officers "ransacked every room" of the house and took "valuable party material" from a room occupied by Morgan Komichi, the party's Deputy Organising Secretary. The house in the Chisipite suburb, is used by the MDC to accommodate its leadership from outside Harare.

Biti said that the police assaulted MDC employee Moffat Nyandure and his wife, before they told him to dig around the yard in search of weapons. Nyandure was forced to dig from 9pm to 2am, and no weapons were discovered.

An MDC statement quotes Biti saying Zanu PF and the state machinery had a long history of raiding and planting incriminating evidence, and said the MDC would never use weapons of war, but would use the constitution to bring in a democratic.

'These acts of harassment are an attempt to intimidate us but we will not be intimidated and our disengagement will not be reversed until outstanding issues in the GPA are resolved," Biti said.

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