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Arrests of NCA and UZ SRC members
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
March 01, 2007

On 27 February 2007, Chikato police from Masvingo arrested two men, Peter Chigaba and Daniel Muchuchuti, and charged them with undermining the authority of the police. The two men had implored the police to return the seized goods of vendors who the law enforcement officers were attempting to arrest. They were detained until the morning of 1 March 2007 when they appeared in court. ZLHR is concerned that the police still insisted on detaining the two despite the prosecutor stating on record that they have no case to answer, unless the police carry out further investigations.

More than 20 people were arrested as the NCA engaged in demonstrations to protest the recently-imposed police ban on rallies and demonstrations. Five people, including Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president, Takavapfira Zhou, were arrested in Masvingo on Wednesday 28 February 2007 for allegedly being involved in the NCA demonstration. The three others, Lynnet Ambwe, and two other males identified as Chitetembu and Zvauya were released after paying a $2,500 admission of guilt fine each. Zhou appeared in court on Friday 2 March 2007 where he was released on bail after being charged under Section 21 of Public Order and Security Act and section 17 of the Criminal Law and Codification Act for undermining the authority of the police.

The NCA office administrator for Masvingo, Sungano Zvarebwanashe, was also was picked up on the afternoon of 1 March 2007. Police said they were interrogating her on suspicion that she had been involved in organising the demonstration. Zvarebwanashe, however, had been attending a workshop organised by the Ministry of Local Government on the day she was said to have participated in the demonstration and the workshop attendance register was produced as evidence in this regard. Nevertheless, the police ignored this evidence and only released her at 9pm that evening without charge.

Eight members of the NCA, namely; Daniel Mutandara, Manex Mauuya, Shelly Saburi, Frank Nyagumbo, Anna Mukwenjere, Tapiwa Mundangapfupfu, Maxwell Chimoyo and another only identified as Mazhembe were arrested on 28 February 2007 in Mutare around lunchtime, and were charged under Section 37(1) of the Criminal Law Codification Reform Act for participating in a demonstration with the intention to cause violence and breach of the peace. The eight, who were detained at the Mutare Central Police Station, appeared in court only on Friday 3 March 2007, where they were released on a $20 000 bail to be paid by each the accused. They are due to re appear in court on 14 March 2007.

ZLHR condemns the inhumane treatment that the eight were subjected to in the police cells. They were assaulted with baton sticks and open palms, and also made to sit on mud. ZLHR member, Trust Maanda, attended to the case and submitted complaints of ill-treatment of his clients by police to the presiding Magistrate. The prosecutor undertook to investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book. ZLHR urges the prosecutor to follow through on his promise because ignoring it will perpetuate impunity and reinforce the belief that the police are above the law.

Five NCA members, Edson Muvundu, Philip Vaki, Onesimo Rice, Brian Maridza and Stanley Ncube were arrested on Wednesday 28 February 2007. Muvundu and Vaki were later released without charge, but the other three were detained and face charges of contravening Section 37(1) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration. ZLHR member, Reginald Chidawanyika, attended to Rice, Maridza and Ncube who appeared in court on 2 March 2007 and were released on $20 000 bail each. They will reappear in court on 29 March 2007.

Police released University of Zimbabwe Student Representative Council president, Tinei Mukwewa, on Monday 5 March. He had been detained from 28 February 2007 and lawyers had been informed that Mukwewa will not be released until other students who had been involved in the UZ demonstration had been picked up. Garikai Tshuma, the vice chairman of the Students' Representative Assembly and Trevor Murayi, the treasurer of the UZ's SRC, were arrested on Friday 2 March. They were detained overnight and released on Saturday 3 March 2007

ZLHR reiterates its concern about the welfare of human rights defenders who have been facing the full brunt of the unlawful actions of law enforcement agents in the wake of the illegal clampdown on demonstrations. Freedom of expression, assembly and association continue to be stripped in contravention of national, regional and international state obligations to the contrary. ZLHR reminds the police that it is their duty to protect the interests of the citizens of Zimbabwe and condemn the use of torture and other forms of violence meted out on such human rights defenders in the cases outlined above.

State agents and the government itself need to start recognising that the will of the people is the basis of the authority of government. The people of Zimbabwe 'will' for a new constitution and a leadership renewal, and are entitled to voice such concerns in peaceful gatherings and demonstrations without facing unlawful police and other state retribution.

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