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ZLHR urges police to acquaint themselves with laws as arrest of MDC leaders is condemned
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

July 11, 2011

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) unreservedly condemns the over-zealous actions of members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), who arrested and detained leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Professor Welshman Ncube, including three Ministers.

Police, on 10 July 2011, without just cause and in their increasingly regular arbitrary manner, arrested and detained for almost four hours at Hwange Police Station the MDC President and Industry and Commerce Minister, Professor Welshman Ncube; Secretary-General and Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga;Deputy Secretary-General and co-Minister of the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, Moses Mzila-Ndlovu; Treasurer-General Paul Themba Nyathi; National Organising Secretary, Qhubani Moyo, Youth Secretary-General Descent Bajila; Matabeleland North Provincial Chairperson, Jealous Sansole; Rita Ndlovu, the National Secretary for Recruitment; Women's Assembly National Organising Secretary, Anastacia Chikuni, and several other party leaders.

The MDC leaders were intercepted at around 18:00hrs at a roadblock mounted along the Victoria Falls-Hwange highway by some abusive police who refused to divulge the reasons for the interception and threatened to assault them. They were then arbitrarily detained at Hwange police station. They had been travelling from the resort town of Victoria Falls where they were consulting their party structures.

After several hours of detention, some senior members of the ZRP stationed at Hwange Police Station reportedly called in Professor Ncube, Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Mzila-Ndlovu and apologized to them stating that they had been given a wrong report pertaining to their activities in Victoria Falls before releasing them without preferring any charges.

It is saddening that the police continue to act in bad faith by selectively arresting and harassing members of some political parties without just cause, whilst at the same time permitting other parties to execute their activities without any hindrance.

A countrywide appraisal indicates a well laid plan to interfere, harass and destablise activities and events organised by legitimate political parties, actors and civil society organisations while those linked to ZANU PF are spared.

The arrest and detention of the MDC leaders is a clear sign that the democratic and constitutional rights of Zimbabweans are still a remote reverie and that the coalition government has not changed the situation for the better as some would want us to believe. The right to organise and to assemble together with the aim of addressing issues of common concern is a human right and an important means by which citizens can influence their governments and leaders.

ZLHR urges the police and government to observe these basic human rights in the interest of upholding the rule of law. Political party players need to be treated equally and ZLHR maintains that showing favouritism and discriminatory treatment encourages and promotes impunity and leads to a further deterioration and undermining of the rule of law and good governance.

The persecution of the MDC leaders for supposedly breaching the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) further indicates the shallow comprehension of the law by members of the ZRP, who continue to misinterpret the provisions of the draconian legislation with impunity.

It is shameful that the police continue to cite provisions of POSA to justify their actions despite several clear pronouncements by the country's judiciary to the effect that they must stop abusing POSA to stop legitimate political party activities.

Such superfluous harassment buttresses the urgent need to inculcate a culture of reading among members of the police so that they can adequately appreciate the provisions of the laws of this country.

ZLHR remains available and willing to offer free lessons to the police on this so that they can refrain from conducting themselves in ways reminiscent of the colonial era.

Visit the ZLHR fact sheet

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