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MMPZ statement on the arrest and detention of Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
December 05, 2011

MMPZ advocacy officers Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda have been detained by Zimbabwe Republic Police in Gwanda in connection with a civic education meeting they facilitated in the town two weeks ago on the 24th November 2011. Also detained in connection with the same case is the chairperson of MMPZ'S Public Information Rights Forum Committee for Gwanda Mr Gilbert Mabusa. They are being charged under POSA for failing to give notice of the meeting despite the fact that the meeting was convened by the membership of MMPZ's Public Information Rights Forum Committee for Gwanda and was therefore not a public meeting as contemplated under POSA. They are also being charged in terms of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for "participating in gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry". The Gwanda police authorities allege that the MMPZ advocacy officers distributed illegal material in the form of a DVD MMPZ produced essentially calling upon the media to contribute to peaceful elections through fair, accurate and balanced coverage of election campaigns by Zimbabwean political parties.

While MMPZ respects the necessity of the due process of the law, it is MMPZ's view that this case does not warrant the pre-trial detention of its advocacy officers and Mr Mabusa. They are not remotely a flight risk as MMPZ's officers have fully cooperated with the police and returned to Gwanda from Harare yesterday to assist the police in their inquiries. The Zimbabwean Constitution protects the right to personal liberty. Depriving an individual of their personal liberty should be an action of last resort. It should not be employed as a first option especially in cases whose circumstances do not warrant pre-trial detention. MMPZ therefore calls upon the police to release Gilbert, Fadzai and Molly from custody forthwith as their attendance at court can be secured by way of summons.

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