ZIMBABWEAN authorities have stepped up their onslaught against dissent after arresting a total of 47 people in one day for allegedly participating in anti-government protests over the country’s worsening political and economic crisis.
In Harare, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers first arrested 7 students at Allan Wilson High School, whom they detained at Harare Central Police Station after accusing them of participating in an illegal demonstration which was held in the capital city early this month.
But when the students’ lawyer Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) arrived at Harare Central Police Station, where law enforcement agents were taking finger prints from them, challenged the treatment of his clients as accused persons, ZRP officers then indicated that they were now treating them as state witnesses in a matter in which a yet to be identified person will be brought to court charged with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The seven students were later released after the recording of the witness statements.
The ZRP officers also arrested 34 people including pro-democracy campaigner Makomborero Haruzivishe and charged them with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Police officers claimed that the 34 people, who were represented by Obey Shava of ZLHR, participated in a demonstration allegedly staged by some MDC Alliance party youths on Wednesday 19 February 2020 in Harare.
However, 32 of the people were released from police custody and only Haruzivishe and Allan Moyo were detained overnight and are expected to appear in court on Saturday 22 February 2020.
In Mutoko in Mashonaland East province, ZRP officers also arrested seven women including a six month-old baby and charged them with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry as defined in section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
In court, prosecutors alleged that the seven women, who were represented by Nontokozo Tachiona-Dube of ZLHR, staged a demonstration on Thursday 20 February 2020, where they handed over a petition at Mutoko District Council protesting against the country’s poor education standards.
The seven women were set free on $100 bail after Tachiona-Dube applied for their release and were remanded to Thursday 5 March 2020.
Tachiona-Dube also secured freedom for four Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe officials including Secretary-General Robson Chere, who had been summoned to appear at Mutoko Police Station in connection with the demonstration allegedly held on Thursday 20 February 2020 in Mutoko.
ZRP officers advised the four people that they will be summoned to appear in court if they intend to proceed with prosecuting them for allegedly failing to notify police officers about the demonstration.