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and forceful deprivation of property and intimidation of lawyers
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
December 18, 2006
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) was recently requested
to respond to reports that state agents operating in Gokwe and claiming
to be from the President's Office had illegally taken radios
from teachers working in the area.
It was alleged that Mr. Mlotshwa and Mr. Emanuel D Takadiyi, working
in the President's Office at Government Complex in Gokwe went
to Simbe Primary School sometime in November 2006 where they are
said to have produced a list with names of teachers who had been
given "Ranger Freeplay" radios by the Progressive
Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
The two state
agents, identifying themselves as coming from the President's
Office, proceeded to demand that three teachers at the school, Mr
Herbert Chigu, Mr. Innocent Mugwagwa and Mr. Elijah Maramba, hand
over the radios to them, claiming that it was a national issue.
demands and threats of the two agents, Mr. Chigu and Mr. Mugwagwa
handed over their radios, while Mr. Maramba was told to bring his
radio when schools opened as he had taken it to his village.
On the 2nd of
December 2006 the same two state agents proceeded to Njelele Secondary
School to forcefully take a similar radio from another teacher,
Mr Tadius Masuka. Mr. Masuka's wife, who was at home at the
time, in her husband's absence, was ordered to hand over the
radio, which she did.
to this clearly unlawful conduct and violation of human rights ZLHR
deployed two lawyers from the Rapid Reaction Unit to provide legal
assistance to the affected teachers in Gokwe. On Friday 16 December
2006 Rangu Nyamurundira and Dzimbabwe Chimbga of ZLHR attended at
Gokwe Magistrates' Court and filed an Ex Parte Application
for Spoliation Order, Case No. GL190/06. A provisional order was
granted to the effect that:
(the two state agents) and all those acting through them are hereby
ordered to return to the 1st and 2nd Applicants their radios upon
being served with a copy of this application and provisional order.
order also required that the Officer-in-Charge at Gokwe police station
or any other police officer under his authority serve the Application
and provisional order on the two state agents. Assistant Inspector
Dube at Gokwe Police Station refused to serve the court papers,
insisting that as a state institution the police could not serve
another state institution, which is clearly incorrect and unlawful.
The ZLHR lawyers were thus forced to serve the court papers themselves
at Government Complex where they met with one of the concerned Respondents,
Mr Mlotshwa. Mr Mlotswa initially refused to accept service insisting
that the lawyers serve the Minister of State Security instead. He
then phoned his superior in Gweru, a Mr. Sigauke, who also insisted
on the papers being served on the Minister. Following insistence
by the ZLHR lawyers that only the cited state agents had to be served,
Mr Sigauke nevertheless insisted that the lawyers follow their own
stated procedure and give their personal details, which was to include
their wives names, if any. ZLHR lawyers complied under protest with
the demand and filled in a "Personal Data Form", giving
their names, home addresses, contact number, and fathers'
names. After filling in the form Mr Mlotshwa then accepted a copy
of the application and provisional order, but refused to accept
a copy on behalf of his colleague, Mr Takadiyi, who was away at
ZLHR is deeply
concerned by the unlawful conduct of the two state agents in forcefully
taking private property from the teachers without any legal authority
to do so. Such conduct not only violated the teachers' right
to property but also violated their constitutional right to receive
information by denying them the use of their radios. These two fundamental
human rights are clearly provided for and protected by the Constitution
of Zimbabwe and other regional and international human rights instruments
to which Zimbabwe is a State Party, including the African Charter
on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights. It is indeed regrettable that authorities
continue to engage in unlawful behaviour in their attempts to prevent
the public from seeking information from alternative sources.
ZLHR also strongly
condemns the harassment and intimidation of lawyers by state agents
while carrying out their legal mandate. To insist that lawyers carrying
out their legal mandate give their personal details is clear harassment
aimed at intimidating them from doing their work. ZLHR further condemns
the refusal by the police at Gokwe Police Station to serve the court
papers as ordered by the Magistrates Court, a clear disregard of
a court order amounting to contempt of court.
ZLHR calls upon
the Minister of State Security and state agents to stop the illegal
and forceful seizure of people's radios, a clear violation
of their right to property and right to receive and share information.
ZLHR further calls upon the Minister of State Security and state
agents, including the Zimbabwe Republic Police to respect court
orders and desist from frustrating, harassing and intimidating lawyers
carrying out their legal duties and seeking to execute court proceedings.
Visit the ZLHR
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