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Chamahwinya dates with freedom, ZESN falls into the line of attack
in Zimbabwe Coalition
February 19, 2013
Defender (HRD) and ZimRights
Education Programme Officer, Leo Chamahwinya, who was granted US$1000
bail by Justice Mwayera at Harare's Rotten Row Magistrate Court,
on February 18, made his long awaited date with freedom, at the
Harare Prison just 8pm on the same day.
overwhelmed with emotion, walked out of the gates and straight into
the arms of his wife. Over 50 people, including family, friends
and civil society leaders were present to witness this joyous reunion.
Chamahwinya had spent 67 days behind bars and had made over 15 court
appearances to date, in his bid for freedom. Colleagues had
gathered outside the remand gates as early as 4pm, awaiting Chamahwinya's
release and in solidarity at the end of his 67-day sojourn to jail,
which began on December 13, 2012.
Present at the
emotional reception was one of Chamahwinya's co-accused, ZimRights
Director and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairperson Okay Machisa,
who was released
on US$ 500 bail a few weeks ago.
The two members
of ZimRights Secretariat, Machisa and Chamahwinya are being jointly
charged with ZimRights represented by Treasurer Nunurai Jena
and ZimRights Highfields Local Chapter chairperson, Dorcas Shereni
on allegations of forgery and conspiracy to commit fraud, or publishing
falsehoods likely to be prejudicial to the State. Dorcas Shereni
was also released on US$500 bail while ZimRights was remanded out
Barely 15 hours
after Chamahwinya's release, and before the shouts of joy on the
same had died down, the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN), Zimbabwe's leading watch dog
on elections had their offices raided
by a group of 6 policemen. The raid, which resulted in the ZESN
durawall being vandalised after police knocked down panels and unhinged
the gate to gain entry, was based on a warrant identical to the
one used to search and seize
documents and equipment from the Zimbabwe
Peace Project (ZPP) on February 11.
The ZESN raid,
like the ZPP one did not result in any arrests, but police are reported
to have taken away confidential internal ZESN documents and agreements
with other stakeholders.
the ZESN raid, Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Director MacDonald
raid on ZESN, just like the one on ZPP and the blitzkrieg unleashed
generally on civics this year, is nothing but a fishing expedition
by the police, in which they generate general warrants, covering
anything and everything in the hope that they find something. We
have no doubt that they will try to comb through the confiscated
documents and attempt to charge organisations not based on the warrants
they used but based on something they hope to find from seized documents.
We are clear that ZESN is one of the outstanding law abiding cooperate
citizens in this country, whose only crime is promoting democratic
elections in Zimbabwe. They just like the myriad of organisations
NGOs working on elections in Zimbabwe, are totally undeserving of
this kind of attention and treatment by the state and the police."
stated that, given the nature of documents seized, he was afraid
that the state may attempt to "shut ZESN out of observing
the referendum and elections and engaging in civic education on
the basis of unjustifiable grounds of receiving foreign funding".
Chamahwinya's reunion with freedom the CiZC Director welcomed
it but emphasised that the dark cloud of the escalating crackdown
on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) needed to be expelled in
remains clear, that the release of Chamahwinya is welcome, but is
a small victory in the greater scheme of things. What we want is
the complete halt of the criminalization of the work of non-governmental
organisations, which is happening across the country on an escalating
we want is a free operating environment that adequately guarantees
the durable democratiness of Zimbabwe through a free and fair election
in line with what is stipulated in the Global
Political Agreement (GPA). Anything short of that unequivocal
end to unnecessary hostilities being unilaterally perpetrated on
NGOs by the state will not warrant celebrations on out part,"
said Crisis Director.
will have to report at Harare Central Police Station once every
week, remain at the residence given to the police upon arrest and
must not interfere with investigations as part of the bail conditions.
of Chamahwinya finally completes the return journey from remand
prison of the three ZimRights officials. Machisa, Shereni and Chamahwinya
who had all been incarcerated after raids on the ZimRights offices
on December 13. Another ZimRights official Cynthia Manjoro was released
in 2012, after spending
time in prison on different occasions and allegations, totalling
255 days altogether.
The raid on
the ZimRights offices came barely three days after a Zanu PF 13th
annual National People's Conference resolution
to disrupt the work on Non-Governmental Organisations. The resolution
has been followed by fortifying statements from Zanu-PF top leadership,
including Spokeperson Rugare Gumbo and National Chairperson Simon
The arrest of
the ZimRights officials in December 2012 has been widely viewed
in the context of a blanket crackdown of non-governmental organizations
in Zimbabwe. Ahead of the forthcoming elections expected in 2013,
eight organizations have been raided in two months. The other organisations,
which have been sucked into the blitzkrieg, are WOZA,
and the ERC.
Visit the Crisis
in Zimbabwe fact
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