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Zimbabwean activist detained in Zambia
August 20, 2007

Zimbabwean lawyers who attended the just ended Southern African Development Committee (SADC) Civil Society Forum found themselves busy as they came to the rescue of Tapera Kapuya the co-ordinator of the National Constitutional Assembly's South African office who had been detained by Zambia authorities.

Kapuya was arrested on 16 August 2007 as he tried to enter the Taj Pamodzi Hotel with two banners that carried the message: A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR ZIMBABWE and MUGABE STOP THE VIOLENCE AGAINST YOUR OWN PEOPLE, RESIGN AND GO NOW. STOP SHAMING AFRICA.

Kapuya planned to parade the two banners during a meeting which had been scheduled to be addressed by Presidents Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, Festus Mogae of Botswana and Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on Regional Integration in the SADC Region.

He was detained for five hours as lawyers Arnold Tsunga and Aleck Muchadehama battled with the Zambian Police to secure his release. Initially, the police wanted to charge him with carrying subversive material. He was later released without any charges.

Tsunga who is also the director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) criticised the conduct of the Zambian police as overzealous and unwarranted as it violated Kapuya's right to freedom of expression.

"With Zambia having assumed chairpersonship of the SADC, we had hoped for better treatment for all those who were in Zambia for the historic event," said Tsunga.

"However, Kapuya's detention together with the deportation of 40 other Zimbabwean activists by the Zambian authorities places the justice delivery system into serious disrepute and confirms our fears that the collapse in the rule of law in Zimbabwe has a contagion effect in the SADC region."

He, however, commended the Zambian authorities for immediately allowing Kapuya access to legal counsel unlike in Zimbabwe where lawyers are often denied access to their clients and become targets of persecution themselves for merely performing their lawful duties.

The detention of Kapuya followed the deportation of 40 other civil society activists on 14 August 2007 by the Zambian immigration officials at Chirundu Border Post for alleged possession of subversive material in the form of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign T-shirts they were wearing.

Meanwhile, SADC Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (CNGO) immediately issued a statement urging SADC Heads of State to investigate the events and make a public statement concerning the outcome of their investigations in the interest of transparency and commitment to good governance in the SADC region.

The 40 activists who spent a night in detention at Chirundu border post were driven to Harare under heavy police escort where they were released upon their arrival in the Zimbabwean capital.

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